US Wages and Benefits Jump as Economy Reopens

AP News (04/30/21) Rugaber, Christopher 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wages and benefits grew quickly for U.S. workers in the first three months of the year, a sign that businesses are starting to offer higher pay to fill newly-opened jobs.

U.S. workers’ total compensation rose 0.9% in the January-March quarter, the largest gain in more than 13 years, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s up from 0.7% in the final three months of last year. Still, the increase is just barely above 0.8% gains in two quarters in 2018.

The solid rise comes after weaker increases during the pandemic, when the unemployment rate initially shot to nearly 15% before declining steadily to 6% in March. As a result, workers’ pay and benefits rose just 2.6% in the year ending in March, down from 2.8% a year earlier.

The data comes from the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index, which measures pay changes for workers that keep their jobs. Unlike some other measures of Americans’ paychecks, it isn’t directly affected by mass layoffs such as the pandemic job losses that occurred last spring.

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