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Economy in Brief

Spain's Labor Costs Pick Up in Q2; Benefits Outstrip Wage Gains
by Carol Stone September 20, 2006

Spain's National Institute of Statistics (INE) reported on labor costs today for Q2 2006. These costs, measured as monthly compensation per worker, picked up to a 3.5% growth rate year-on-year from 3.4% in Q1 and at or near 3.0% for the previous two calendar years. The data are in a simple format: in Haver's SPAIN database, they are available in euros and an index of 2000=100, for three sectors of the economy, industry, construction and services, and for the total and two components, earnings and "other". So there are 12 numbers in each quarterly report for each the euro amount and the index level. Could such a small array be interesting? Indeed.

In Q2, while labor costs accelerated in total, they slowed in basic industry and construction and not by small increments. The industry sector increased 3.5% following 4.5% in Q1. Construction gained 3.9% in the latest quarter, after 4.3% in Q1. But the rapidly expanding service sector had 3.8% growth in Q2, well more than the 3.2% in Q1. So labor compensation in services gained visibly even as it slowed in more traditional sectors. However, this may have been a transitory shift, as the average annual gains over the prior five years had the reverse pattern: industry and construction both had vigorous increases, 4.1% annually for industry and 4.7% for construction, with services at 3.6%. So it's hard to tell if the old-line economy is moving to a slower trend or just pausing after sizable gains in earlier periods. In fact, if anything, these data show how consistent the service sector has been, hovering all the while in a range around 3-1/2% average yearly gains.

Another significant point in this little array of data concerns the split between wages and "other" labor costs. Over the period 2000-2005, earnings grew at an average annual rate of 3.3%. But other labor compensation advanced at a 5.0% pace. These costs cover the same general items referred to in the US as "supplements to wages and salaries" or "benefits": disability and unemployment, and also in Spain compensation for tools, uniforms and transportation, and similar job-related expenses. In both countries, these also cover employers' payments into the social security system. And in Spain as in the US, to continue the parallel, these "other" costs are growing as a portion of total compensation: in 2000, "other" labor costs were 24.6% of compensation in Spain and by the first half of this year, they absorbed 26.7%. For the US, comparable shares were 16.5% in 2000 and 19.3% this year.

Spain: Monthly Labor Cost/ Worker (€, NSA) Q2 2006 Q1 2006 Q2 2005 2005 2004 2003 2000
Total 2197 2114 2122 2110 2058 1992 1758
  Yr/Yr % Chg 3.5 3.4 3.4 2.9 3.0 4.2 3.7
Earnings 1624 1538 1575 1560 1521 1480 1326
  Yr/Yr % Chg 3.1 3.0 3.4 2.6 2.8 3.8 3.3
"Other" 574 575 547 550 531 512 432
  Yr/Yr % Chg 4.9 4.4 3.5 3.6 3.6 5.4 5.0
"Other" as % of Total 26.1 27.2 25.8 26.1 25.9 25.7 24.6
Memo: Similar US Share 19.3 19.3 19.4 19.4 19.1 19.0 16.5
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