No, it’s not just your imagination – wage rates really are growing at their slowest pace on record.
Wage rates, excluding bonuses, rose only 2.2 per cent through 2015, according to the latest numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday.
The data series goes all the way back to 1997 and its slowest annual growth rate before last year was 2.5 per cent.
That was recorded in 2014 and followed the previous slowest-so-far record of 2.6 per cent set in 2013. So it’s no fluke.
If the bureau had calculated the wage price index in early years, it’s possible there may have been a slower rate of growth at some point.
A corresponding measure from the national accounts – average compensation per employee in the non-farm sector – extends back to 1971.
Annual growth in that gauge slowed to near zero in 1985 as wages were held back under the Prices and Incomes Accord and again in 1995 as the earlier surge in unemployment suppressed workers’ bargaining power.
And it actually fell marginally in 2009.
But that measure is much more variable than the wage price index released on Wednesday – its latest annual pace was just 0.6 per cent, over the 12 months to September last year.
So it’s fair to say if wages growth is not as slow as it’s been for over 50 years, it’s certainly very close to it.