Journal Article

How Aggregation Matters for Measured Wage Growth


Abstract: Wage growth is often measured by the change in average hourly earnings (AHE), a gauge of overall wages that aggregates information on earnings and hours worked across individuals. A close look at this aggregation method demonstrates that AHE growth reflects disproportionately the profile of high-earning workers who typically display lower and less cyclically sensitive wage growth. Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), we adopt a different aggregation method and compute wage growth as the average of individuals’ wage growth. The analysis indicates that the CPS measure of average wage growth is significantly higher than AHE growth and that it displays a more meaningful nonlinear relationship with the Congressional Budget Office’s unemployment gap. Last, our findings do not support the claim that there was hidden slack in the labor market during the recent expansion that was restraining wage growth.

Keywords: wages; labor market slack;

https://doi.org/10.26509/frbc-ec-202019

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Part of Series: Economic Commentary

Volume: 2020

Issue: 19

Pages: 9