Cornell University

January 31 2011

Labor Costs Inch Up

Institute for Compensation Studies comments on latest Employment Cost Index

Labor costs are going higher, but not enough to chill hiring, according to ILR's Institute for Compensation Studies.

The Employment Cost Index for 2010's final quarter "is consistent with an economy pulling out of labor market trough, but accelerating very, very slowly," according to a Monday commentary by the institute.

The Employment Cost Index tracks changes in labor costs, including wages/salaries and employer costs for employee benefits.

Index figures for 2010’s final quarter were released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Compensation costs for employers of U.S. civilian workers are up two percent over the 12-month period ending December 2010.

"When we looked in our '12-month rearview mirror' three months ago, the Employment Cost Index for total compensation was holding flat at 1.9 percent," Linda Barrington, managing director of the institute, said in an interview.

"Now, that number's accelerated to two percent.  But, wages and salaries are picking up speed much slower than benefit costs," she said.

According to the Institute for Compensation Studies commentary, "Such moderate acceleration should give no pause to employers considering increased hiring, at least no pause from the wage and salary side of compensation."

The institute' full commentary on the most recent Employment Cost Index can be seen at: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/ICS/news/01312011-usEmploymentCostIndexQ42010.html.