Wage data is a particular focus for Fed officials, who believe that the labor market, in which there are far more available jobs than workers to fill them, is pushing up pay at an unsustainable rate, contributing to inflation. Other measures had suggested a more significant slowdown in wage growth than showed up in the data on Friday, which is less timely but generally considered more reliable
“If any Fed officials were wavering on a May rate hike,” Omair Sharif, founder of Inflation Insights, wrote in a note to clients on Friday, the wage data “will likely push them to support at least one more hike.”
But a crucial question is what comes after that. Central bankers forecast in March that they might stop raising interest rates after their next move. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, could explain after the central bank’s rate announcement next week if that is still the case. The decision will hinge on incoming economic and financial data.
Investors largely shrugged off the data on Friday morning, focusing instead on a week of robust profit reports that suggest corporate America has yet to fully feel the pinch of higher interest rates. The S&P 500 index rose 0.5 percent in midday trading. The yields on Treasury bonds, which track the government’s cost to borrow more money and are sensitive to changes in interest-rate expectations, fell slightly.
The Fed faces a delicate task as it seeks to raise borrowing costs just enough to discourage hiring and ease pressure on pay, but not so much that companies begin laying off workers en masse.