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Economy in Brief

U.S. Employment Cost Index Firmer in Q1
by Carol Stone  April 30, 2015

The employment cost index for private industry workers rose 0.7% (2.8% y/y) in Q1'15, following a 0.5% Q4 rise, revised from 0.6%. The Q1 number was stronger than expectations for a 0.5% rise, according to the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

Wages & salaries of private industry workers were also up 0.7% (2.7% y/y) last quarter after their 0.5% Q4 rise. There was considerable variation among industry groups in Q1. Professional and business services were strongest, at 1.6% in the quarter and 4.0% year/year. Leisure & hospitality (2.4% y/y), financial activities (2.2% y/y) and "other" (2.2% y/y) were at 0.8% for the quarter. Educational services had a 0.7% gain (2.1% y/y), and manufacturing (2.3% y/y) and information services (2.1%) came at 0.6% in Q1. Construction workers had a 0.5% increase (2.0% y/y) and the trade, transportation and utilities group (3.0% y/y) and health and social assistance (2.1% y/y) were at 0.4%.

Benefit costs were up 0.6% (2.6% y/y) after 0.5% in Q4. Reported by occupational group, benefits for production, transportation and material-moving workers jumped 1.1% (2.5% y/y), management, professional and related staff saw an increase of 0.6% (3.0% y/y), and service occupations got 0.5% (1.7% y/y). Benefit gains were weaker at 0.1% for both sales and office workers (2.1% y/y) and natural resource, construction and maintenance workers (3.0% y/y).

Total compensation for state & local government workers rose 0.5% (2.1% y/y) in Q1 after 0.6% in Q4. Education workers' compensation gained 0.6% (2.1% y/y), health care and social assistance 0.9% (2.5% y/y), and that for public administration workers went up just 0.2% (2.2% y/y).

The employment cost index figures are available in Haver's USECON database. Consensus estimates come from the Action Economics survey, carried in Haver's AS1REPNA database.

ECI- Private Industry Workers (%) Q1'15 Q4'14 Q3'14 Q1 Y/Y 2014 2013 2012
Compensation 0.7 0.5 0.7 2.8 2.1 1.9 1.9
 Wages & Salaries 0.7 0.5 0.7 2.7 2.0 1.9 1.8
 Benefit Costs 0.6 0.5 0.5 2.6 2.3 1.9 2.3
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