NY Fed finds record wage expectations in July consumer survey

By Michael S. Derby

NEW YORK (Reuters) – American workers’ expectations for pay surged in July, even as those same workers foresee a modestly less robust job market, said a survey released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Respondents told the bank that they’d expect an annual salary offer of $67,416 upon being offered a job, a record reading in a survey that started in 2014, up from the $60,310 reported a year ago. “The increase was broad-based across age, education, and income groups, but was most pronounced for respondents above age 45 and for college graduates,” the report said.

Meanwhile, respondents to the bank’s Survey of Consumer Expectations said that the lowest wage they’d accept to take a job also jumped, hitting a record $78,645, from $72,873 a year ago.

The pay workers are expecting was not from what they’re actually getting. The survey said that survey respondents said that in July the average wage offered for a full-time job was $69,475 versus $60,764 in July 2022.

The jump in compensation, actual and expected, came even as poll respondents saw some softening around the edges of the job market. The survey found that relative to a year ago there’s been a small decline in those who said they’d changed jobs, as well as a reduction in the number of people who said they were searching for new work.

Looking ahead, respondents said the probability of them moving to a new employer stood at 10.6%, down from 11% in the July 2022 survey. Respondents also said they see the chances of receiving a job offer in the next four months as lower.

The New York Fed reports on labor market expectations quarterly as part of a data series best known for tracking the expected path of inflation and household financial situations. The latest data comes just days before Fed officials gather with other world top financial authorities at a research conference to be held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Fed officials are continuing to grapple with whether they need to press forward with interest rate increases at a time when inflation remains high but is falling. Even with a historically aggressive campaign of rate rises economic growth and labor markets remain strong.

The New York Fed data suggests risks remain that wage gains and expectations of pay increases could keep some upward pressure on inflation, which could keep alive the prospect that the central bank may have to raise rates further

That said, there’s been an active debate over how much rising wages are a driver of inflation in a time where many other parts of the economy have been working through disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A recent Cleveland Fed paper, noting the strong job gains, framed them as reactive to economic events, saying “ we find that the increase in wage growth largely reflects the pass-through of higher inflation and does not reflect labor market imbalances.” The paper’s authors expect wage gains to moderate.

(Reporting by Michael S. Derby; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)