Surprise! Prices jumped again in June, but so did wages, according to a pair of reports that dropped on Friday morning.
What does this mean for both workers and consumers as the Federal Reserve ratchets up interest rates, possibly bringing on a recession, to tamp down on inflation?
First, the Data
The Fed's preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, was up 6.8 percent year-over-year in June, which is the biggest jump since 1982. Price gains were also pretty widespread, with core inflation, which cuts out volatile food and energy prices, rising 4.8 percent.
So there were no clear signs of moderation, which affirms the Fed's decision earlier this week to announce its second 75-basis-point rate hike in a row (assuming higher interest rates are even capable of bringing down prices, which is what the Fed thinks).
At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that compensation costs for private industry workers jumped 5.5 percent in June from the year before. That's compared to a 3.1 percent year-over-year increase in June 2021.
For those who think the tight labor market is fueling inflation, this is bad news. For workers, of course, it's a long overdue correction after years of wage stagnation.
Wage gains don't happen in a vacuum, however. Workers are also consumers, and higher prices means everyone is getting less bang for their buck. So-called real average hourly earnings, which is how much workers make after accounting for inflation, were down 1 percent between May and June.
But that's just looking at aggregates. Look a bit closer, and some workers are still coming out ahead, even with inflation at a four-decade high.
For instance, the majority of workers who changed jobs between April 2021 and March 2022 saw an increase in their real earnings, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.
Of course, despite high turnover and quit rates, not every worker is going out and seeking greener pastures. Many are still seeing their recently made wage gains erased at the grocery store and gas pump. With a slew of major jobs data coming next week, including the big monthly jobs report, there will be more evidence soon of how workers are faring.
The hope is that as prices moderate, and in some cases fall as we saw with gas prices, workers will still be in a better position, having secured higher salaries. But that's far from certain.