Real Earnings

Release Date: Usually released monthly, at about the middle of the new month
Release Time: At 8.30am EST
Released By: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics


The Real Earnings report is a news release which is published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor. It measures the change in the inflation-adjusted weekly earnings of the employed population in the United States.

Real Earnings report on BLS website

The Real Earnings report is actually the result of the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, which is a monthly establishment survey that focuses on employment, payroll, and number of hours worked per week. Some of the data are seasonally adjusted so that they can be used for estimating the percentage change from the same month a year gone by for current and constant average hourly and weekly earnings.

The Real Earnings report is broken down as follows:

  • Current and real (constant 1982-1984 dollars) earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls (seasonally adjusted).
  • Current and real (constant 1982-1984 dollars) earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls (seasonally adjusted).
  • Real average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees.

Section of Real Earnings Report for March 2014
Section of Real Earnings Report for March 2014

Time of Release

The Real Earnings report is usually released monthly, at about the middle of the new month at 8.30am EST. The news release occurs at the same time as the Core CPI data. The data is released on the webpage of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and also on independent news feeds from Bloomberg and Thomas Reuters. The headline data is the monthly change from the previous month, but the annualized year-on-year change is also documented.

Interpreting the Data

The Real Earnings data will have an influence in determining what labor costs will do to a business, and also on consumer inflation depending on whether wages are falling or rising.

If real earnings are rising, it may enhance the ability of workers to spend more, thus increasing consumer spending. This will at some point put inflationary pressure on the economy. This situation is therefore USD positive.

If real earnings are falling, consumer spending is adversely affected and the inflationary pressure on the economy is reduced.

There is another angle however. If real earnings are rising, it may impact negatively on a company’s revenue and hiring may be reduced or stopped entirely. Lower real earnings allow companies more room to hire more staff. So it really is more of a function of what the most important economic indices in a country are at the moment. As at Q1 2014, jobs are more of an economic issue in the US than inflation.

The Real Earnings report has a low impact on the market and is therefore not directly tradable. This is because it contains data from the previous NFP report and also data from the simultaneously released Core CPI report (which has a high market impact and overshadows the real earnings report.