Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Q2 Labor Costs, Revised

The big increase in US hourly compensation in the second quarter didn’t make sense when it was first reported. Now that it has been revised upward, it makes even less sense. The best explanation I’ve heard comes from Dean Baker, who suggests, based on the NIPA statistical discrepancy, that some capital gains (obtained, for example, via exercise of employee stock options) might be misclassified as compensation. (Conceptually, in the case of stock options, the compensation took place when the options were granted, not when they were exercised. Anything that happened to the value in the intervening time was a capital change rather than income, but the value of the options doesn’t show up on the income side of the national accounts until they are exercised.)

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8 Comments:

Blogger Gabriel Mihalache said...

Huh... is the magnitude suficient to account for this? How popular can stock options be in the US?

Wed Sep 06, 02:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger knzn said...

I haven’t thought about the required magnitudes, but I imagine Dean Baker probably has. Bear in mind that stock options go disproportionately to those at the high end of the income distribution, so even if they aren’t an overwhelming fraction of compensation for those individuals, they could possibly make a significant contribution to aggregate compensation in a given quarter, at least if a lot of people decided to exercise them during the same quarter. I know this is extremely speculative, but if it’s true that a lot of people decided to exercise options recently, I guess that would be a bad sign for future profits, assuming that insiders have better information.

Wed Sep 06, 03:12:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if it’s true that a lot of people decided to exercise options recently, I guess that would be a bad sign for future profits, assuming that insiders have better information

They may have been sold to finance excessive spending, not necessarily based on insider info.

Thu Sep 07, 05:40:00 AM EDT  
Blogger spencerengland said...

The NIPA statistical discrepancy has been unusually large this entire cycle. Compare the differences between nominal income growth and nominal gdp growth this cycle compared to other cycles -- it is extremely unusual.

Thu Sep 07, 09:22:00 AM EDT  
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