What is 'Wage Push Inflation'

Wage push inflation is a general increase in the cost of goods that is preceded by and results from an increase in wages. To maintain corporate profits after an increase in wages, employers must increase the prices they charge for the goods and services they provide. The overall increased cost of goods and services has a circular effect on the wage increase; eventually, as goods and services in the market overall increase, then higher wages will be needed to compensate for the increased prices of consumer goods.

BREAKING DOWN 'Wage Push Inflation'

Companies can increase wages for a number of reasons. The most common reason for raising wages is an increase to the minimum wage. The federal and state governments have the power to increase the minimum wage. Consumer goods companies are also known for making incremental wage increases for their workers. These minimum wage increases are a leading factor for wage push inflation. In consumer goods companies especially, wage push inflation is highly prevalent, and its effect is a function of the percentage increase in wages.

Industry Factors Driving Wage Inflation

Industry factors also play a part in driving wage increases. If a specific industry is growing rapidly, companies might raise wages to attract talent or provide higher compensation for their workers as an incentive to help business growth. All such factors have a wage push inflation effect on the goods and services the company provides.

Economists track wages closely because of their wage push inflation effects. Wage push inflation has an inflationary spiral effect that occurs when wages are increased and businesses must — to pay the higher wages — charge more for their products and/or services. Additionally, any wage increase that occurs will increase the money supply of consumers. With a higher money supply, consumers have more spending power, so the demand for goods increases. An increase in demand for goods then increases the price of goods in the broader market. Companies charge more for their goods to pay higher wages, and the higher wages also increase the price of goods in the broader market.

As the cost of goods and services rise at the companies paying higher wages and in the broader market overall, the wage increase is not as helpful to employees, since the cost of goods in the market has also risen. If prices remain increased, workers eventually require another wage increase to compensate for the cost of living increase. The percentage increase of the wages and prices and their overall effect on the market are key factors driving inflation in the economy.

An Example of Wage Inflation

For example, if a state raises the minimum $5 to $20, that company must compensate by increasing the prices of its products on the market. But because the goods become more expensive, that raise isn't enough to propel a consumer's purchasing power, and the wage must be raised again, therefore causing an inflationary spiral. 

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