Whew, what to make of this rollicking market. Although we have a good idea what happens next.
No, no, not the stock market. We learned all we need to know about those gyrations a few years ago from Albert “Ab” Nicholas, founder of the Nicholas investment company in Milwaukee. Nicholas, now deceased, advised thinking long-term rather than paying attention to Wall Street’s conniptions. “Two-thirds of the time, stocks are going up,” Nicholas said, approximately. “One-third of the time, they’re going down. Don’t try to guess which third is which.”
No, the number that animates us today is over in the employment market: The Labor Department reports that in January, wages for private-sector workers were 2.9 percent higher than a year earlier. That’s the biggest year-over-year increase since the end of the Great Recession in mid-2009.
If this isn’t a blip, it’s excellent news. For most of the long but lazy recovery from that recession, Americans haven’t seen much in the way of wage increases. It’s hard to distinguish causes from effects, but: The U.S. economy was growing slowly, employers didn’t have to raise wages to retain their employees, and those workers didn’t have new infusions of income to drive consumer demand for the goods and services employers make or provide.
Now, though, the cycle looks more virtuous. If it keeps up, so will the faster economic growth of the past year.
Consider these data points: The…