So much for the thesis of declining labor slack and rising labor leverage. Moments ago the BLS reported its Q1 labor costs which poured cold water over all recent hypotheses that the US worker's plight is improving. It isn't: productivity increased by 0.5% in Q1 in ling with expectations of 0.6% (on what is not exactly clear - everyone on their iPhones?) but it was labor costs which plunged -4.3% on expectations of a +0.5% increase driven by a 3.8% collapse in hourly compensation that was the stunner. This was the biggest labor cost drop in four years and the biggest collapse in hourly compensation in well, ever and confirms our observations from the last NFP report that quantity gains in jobs continue to be offset by quality declines in actual worker pay. As a reminder we were scratching our heads following the soaring Q4 labor cost and declining productivity data which made no sense in the general context of deteriorating labor conditions. Following this print, it all falls back into place and confirms the Q4 data was nothing but an outlier. Also,this may be the end of the core thesis behind David Rosenberg's recently developed reflationary argument.
But nobody was as punished as manufacturers who as ADP reported moments ago are not only losing their jobs, but are getting much less:
Unit labor costs in manufacturing decreased 10.0 percent in the first
quarter of 2013, due to both the 3.5 percent increase in productivity
and a 6.9 percent decrease in hourly compensation.
Oh well, time to export some more jobs to China or Greece, even as corporations focus on buybacks and dividends, instead of investing in growth CapEx or retaining workers. If one needed an indicator of what end demand truly looks like, this is it.