Forex Fundamental Analysis

Minimum Wages – Understanding This Macro Economic Indicator


Minimum Wages are essential for protecting citizens and ensuring that everyone gets a fair share of the fruits of the progress made. Minimum Wages act as the foundation for everyone at the entry-level to compete equally to the top. Minimum Wages are used by a majority of the countries across the world. Understanding Minimum Wages and its importance can help us better understand improvement in people’s living standards over time alongside the country’s economic growth.

What are Minimum Wages?

The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines Minimum Wages as “the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period, which cannot be reduced by collective agreement or an individual contract.” It is the least money paid out for work as a wage over a given period. It cannot be lowered by mutual understanding nor through a legal agreement. Hence, it is the lowest remuneration that an employer can give their employees.

The Minimum Wage can be set by a statute, wage board or council, competent authority decision, industrial or labor courts, tribunals, or law enforced collective arguments. Most countries had introduced the Minimum Wages by the end of the twentieth century.

Minimum Wages initially started off to stop exploiting workers in sweatshops (places with unacceptable working conditions, potentially illegal and dangerous). Owners at such places generally had dominion over that workplace and people working. But later on, it became a means to help uplift the lower-income families. Minimum Wages were first incorporated by New Zealand in 1894, followed by many other countries gradually.

How can the Minimum Wage numbers be used for analysis?

Minimum Wages acted as the price floor beneath which a worker may not sell their labor. The purpose of Minimum Wages is to set a barrier to exploiting the labor force through unduly low wages for their work. It will ensure a just and equitable way of distributing the returns on the progress made collectively. It will also ensure people receive the money required to sustain a living and act as legal protection for people who need it.

Minimum Wages are also used as part of a policy to eradicate poverty. It also helps curb inequality amongst employees based on age, sex, or race for the work of equal value done. Minimum Wages also acts as a floor for wage negotiations and collective agreements. Any negotiation always has a legal and reasonable base, only above which all negotiations can take place and shall not fall below it.

The effect of increasing the Minimum Wage had a negligible impact on the employment rate in general. Still, cost-cutting in other sectors and the profitability of the company become vulnerable. Minimum Wage level adjustments are deemed to be made from time to time, meaning whenever the board feels it is needed based on the cost-of-living indices. Most countries adjust their Minimum Wages yearly, some do on a six-month basis, and some do it on a two-year basis.

Inflation and Cost-of-Living fluctuations erode the purchasing and protection power of the Minimum Wage. At such times, unscheduled interventions become essential to keep protecting the labor force.

Fixing Minimum Wage too low defeats the very purpose for which they were set and too high creates a significant impact on employment, worsening the situation. Careful and objective decisions have to be made to set and adjust Minimum Wages periodically as per economic conditions.

Setting too low could constrain consumer spending, which is terrible for the economy as it fuels the GDP. Setting too high could trigger inflation on subsequent levels, hurting exports, decreasing profit margins, and reducing employment.

The ILO deems the following three economic factors to take into account to set Minimum Wages: economic development requirements, productivity levels, and desirability of achieving and maintaining high levels of employment. All the factors are correlated and have to be set to optimize all three economic factors.

The ratio of Minimum to Average Wage is also used to understand wage inequality among laborers within an organization. In developed economies, Minimum Wages generally range 35 to 60 percent of the Median Wage. In developing economies, the percentage is even higher, indicating higher-level workers are relatively underpaid. Minimum Wage at aggregated levels classified based on regions can also help central authorities to identify lagging states or regions, where the standard of living can be improved and economic backwardness eradicated.

Images Credit: International Labour Organization

Impact on Currency

Minimum Wages changes are often annual and do not have an impact on currency markets as it pertains to a particular section of working-class people. Minimum Wage is a low impact lagging indicator and does not deem any importance in the currency markets.

It is useful for central authorities and vulnerable workgroups to raise their living standards and maintain economic equality. When everyone is treated justly in terms of wages, economic growth is not crippled by exploitation and discrimination.

Economic Reports

In the United States, the Department of Labor enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and sets the Minimum Wage and overtime pay standards. It is enforced by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division. Annual revisions to the same are made and announced, if any.

Sources of Minimum Wages

  • Minimum Wage details set by the Department of Labor is available here.
  • The OECD also maintains the same as Real Minimum Wages.
  • Consolidated reports of Minimum Wages of most countries can be found on Trading Economics.
  • We can find guidelines on setting the Minimum Wage and various nuances associated with it on ILO.

Minimum Wages Announcement – Impact due to news release

The Minimum Wage is an employees’ base rate of pay for ordinary hours worked. It is dependent on the industrial policies that apply to their employment. Employees cannot be paid less than their Minimum Wage, even if they agree to receive it.

Every year, the work commission reviews the minimum wages received by employees in the national workplace system and then submits it to the government’s labor ministry. Looking at the suggestions mentioned, the government increases the minimum wages for workers of the nation. Minimum wages have little impact on the value of a currency as it does not considerably affect the industrial output and the economy.

The below image shows that the weekly wages were increased for Australian employees in 2020. Although the difference is not huge, it still is a positive step taken for the daily wage workers. Looking at the data, we should not expect significant volatility in the currency pairs during the announcement.

AUD/EUR | Before the announcement

In the above image of the AUD/EUR 1-hour timeframe chart, we try to establish potential trading opportunities. The pair has been ranging for the past three days before June 19th, 2020.

AUD/EUR | After the announcement

The above image highlights the news announcement day. It may seem there was a small uptrend that was built was erased in the second half of the day. An increase in the minimum wages in favor of AUD did not break the trend established a few days earlier. The pair continues its range post the announcement day also.

AUD/USD | Before the announcement

The above image highlights the AUD/USD pair a few days before the news announcement day. No trend has been established as of now.

AUD/USD | After the announcement

The above image highlights the news announcement day, and we see a similar pattern to the AUD/EUR. We see it is in the typical volatility range of the AUD/USD. The news announcement did not help AUD break the previous and post ranging trend here also.

AUD/CHF | Before the announcement

The above image is AUD/CHF pair, and here also, no potential trading opportunities are building up until June 19th, 2020.

AUD/CHF | After the announcement

The above image highlights the news announcement, and we see that the news did not move the currency in favor of AUD. The AUD/CHF continued to stay in the same range as before the news release day.

Overall, in all the three scenarios, we see the minimum wage economic indicator despite coming in favor of AUD; the market impact was negligible. The market is aware that it is a low impact indicator and affects only a specific section of the labor force.

Hence, changes in minimum wages of a country do not translate to its currency volatility, as already confirmed through our fundamental analysis. Moreover, it is a yearly statistic, and the corresponding effects of increased minimum wages will be captured through monthly indicators better.

Forex Fundamental Analysis

The Impact Of ‘Labor Costs’ Fundamental Driver’s News Release On The Price Charts


Labor Cost is a critical element affecting business profitability and sustainability. Labor costs have a direct feedback effect on inflation rates. Understanding its effect on the labor force, economic growth, and inflation helps understand how market forces act.

What are Labor Costs?

It is defined as the total cost of labor used in a business. It is the sum of all wages paid out to the employees of business by the employer. Labor costs include payroll taxes and employee benefits also. Hence, from a business standpoint, it is part of business expenditure dealing with human resources. It can also be defined as the wages cost paid to workers during an accounting period, including taxes and benefits.

Most often, countries measure Unit Labor Cost, which is the labor compensation for a unit of business value produced. It is also a measure of international competitiveness amongst different labor markets throughout the world. Many companies in the United States have shifted their production plants to countries like Mexico, China, and India, where labor cost is relatively lower than the United States.

Labor costs are broadly categorized into the following two categories:

Direct cost: It is the cost of labor that can be traced to produce. It is the labor cost of employees that produce a product. It is a tangible measure. For example, if forty employees are working on assembling and packing an automobile engine, then the labor cost can be traced to the engine’s sale prices.

Indirect cost: It is the labor cost that cannot be traced to any tangible business produce. For instance, building security does not contribute to business output but ensures the safety of the place. It is generally associated with support labor that maintains business activity.

Businesses price in the labor costs, material charges, and overheads, if any, into the final sales price of the product or service they produce. The final product must factor in all the costs incurred; otherwise, it can hurt the company’s profit margin.

While it is easier to evaluate direct costs, indirect costs are a little trickier to evaluate due to their intangible nature. Undervaluation or overvaluation of costs drives the actual price of products away from correct prices. Undervaluation can force employees to quit for better opportunities. Overvaluation can hurt business profit or translate those prices into the end product. When overvalued products hit markets, they lose out to competition and hurt business. Hence, correctly modeling labor costs is vital for business sustenance.

Labor costs are sometimes also classified as fixed and variable costs. Variable costs change based on the amount of work done or business production. For instance, workers working on the production line can see reduced or increased work during business cycles. In such instances, workers are paid for the hours worked, or the output produced. Fixed costs do not vary over the entire business cycle. For instance, a contract with a maintenance company for a year would be fixed for repairs throughout the year.

How can the Labor Costs numbers be used for analysis?

Labor costs are affected by the following factors:

Labor Availability: The supply and demand for labor will drive labor costs. Lack of availability of the required skilled laborers for a particular business can drive up the labor costs due to demand outweighing supply. Conversely, when the market is saturated, labor costs go down due to market forces.

Workplace Location: The cost of living varies across different regions. Businesses having multiple branches can offer different pay for the same work in different areas due to differences in living costs. Wages are generally high in metropolitan cities and lower in semiurban areas.

Task Complexity: The more complex the work, the more a business pays out for it. The task difficulty drives up the labor cost.

Efficiency and Productivity: Efficiency can improve productivity for the same hours of work and workforce. It can increase business profits that can translate into higher labor wages also.

Worker Unions: Hiring a union member ensures that the wages are above a particular minimum pay set by the union. Unions have control over demand and supply of workers, thereby having the power to negotiate labor wages.

Legislation: With many countries adopting minimum wages, and having dedicated acts and laws to protect labor exploitation, labor costs have a price floor below which it cannot drop.

Employer’s idealogy: Some business owners place more emphasis on its employees and view them as the heart of the business. Such people pay higher wages compared to other businesses that emphasize more on profit.

Labor costs are directly proportional to inflation. As prices rise, the cost of living increases and laborers demand higher wages. When labor costs increase, the profit margin of the company decreases. To avoid a reduction in profits, companies may employ cost-cutting mechanisms or lay-offs to accommodate the new wage hike. A significant increase in labor costs can increase unemployment.

On the flip side, the increased labor cost may translate to the product’s end sale price, giving a feedback loop to price inflation. It continues until market equilibrium is achieved through the open demand and supply market forces.

Impact on Currency

Significant and quick increases in the labor market induce inflation, which is depreciating for the currency. Labor cost in itself does not directly affect the country’s currency worth. It is part of a more extensive system. Labor costs are seen from the business point of view and are associated more with inflation.

Overall, labor costs are low impact lagging indicators that do not have a significant effect on currency market volatility. It is deemed more useful for businesses and policymakers to balance laborer’s well-being and business sustainability.

Economic Reports

In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases quarterly “Labor Productivity and Costs” that details the Unit Labor Cost also. The report is released in the following mid of the month for the previous quarter.

Sources of Labor Costs

The BLS Labor Productivity and Costs report contains the Unit Labor Cost reports.

The OECD also maintains data of the Unit Labor Cost data of its member countries.

Consolidated Labor Costs data is also available on Trading Economics for most countries.

Labor Costs Announcement – Impact due to news release

In the previous section of the article, we understood the labor costs economic indicator, which essentially measures the change in the price companies pays for labor, excluding overtime. It is a leading indicator of consumer inflation. High labor costs make workers better off, but they reduce companies’ profits and net cash flow.

Policies that increase labor costs can significantly affect employment and working standards, which has an indirect impact on the overall economy. Since labor costs are a company-specific factor, its impact is primarily felt on the company’s stock price and the stock market.  Hence, currency traders do not give much importance to the official labor costs news release.

In today’s article, we will be analyzing the latest labor costs data of New Zealand that was released in May. In the below image, we can see that labor costs were slightly lower than last time and almost equal to market expectations. Let us find out the market’s reaction to this data.

NZD/USD | Before the announcement

The above image shows the NZD/USD 15-minute timeframe chart right until 22:30 GMT. The news release is at 22:45 GMT. Before the news release, the market has no clear pattern and maintains a range with no clear uptrends or downtrends.

NZD/USD | After the announcement

After the news announcement at 22:45 GMT of labor costs Index quarterly reports, which came a little lower than the forecast, no new trends developed. The pair kept its ranging trend before, during, and after the news release.

NZD/CAD | Before the announcement

The above image is the NZD/CAD 15-minute timeframe chart, and we can see here also there is no clear trend building up throughout the day. The currency pair has been in a ranging trend throughout the timeline.

NZD/CAD | After the announcement

After the news announcement, there seems to be no significant volatility in either direction. The news did not create enough volatility to bring about any trend.

NZD/EUR | Before the announcement

The above chart is the NZD/EUR 15-minute time frame chart, and there have been here also no trends building up before the news announcement. There are no potential trade signals here until now.

NZD/EUR | After the announcement

After the news announcement, there seems to be no volatility around the candle. The pair did not build any momentum after the announcement also.

In conclusion, even though the news announcement came slightly less favorable to the NZD currency, we did not see any downtrends for NZD currency against any other currency. The market ignored the news, and there was no impact significant enough to move the currency in either direction. All of this again firmly establishes our fundamental conclusion that the labor costs economic indicator is a low impact indicator in the currency markets and can be overlooked for the fundamental analysis of currencies.