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The index rose to 98.72 (second quarter 1976 = 100) in the first three months of 2013 following declines in each of the two previous quarters. Over the past seven quarters, the WTI has fluctuated, staying within a range of 98.47 to 98.75.
"We are seeing some positive signs in the labor market, but there are still a lot of uncertainties in the economy," economist Kathryn Kobe, a consultant who maintains and helped develop Bloomberg BNA's WTI database, said. "The federal budget sequester that appears to be in place for the rest of the fiscal year is going to put a crimp in things for a while,"
Kobe said she expects little or no change in the pace of annual wage gains in the private sector from the 1.7 percent increase over the year ended in the fourth quarter, as measured by the Department of Labor's employment cost index (ECI). The WTI does not forecast the magnitude of wage growth, only the direction.
Over its history, the WTI has predicted a turning point in wage trends six to nine months before the trends are apparent in the ECI. A sustained increase in the WTI forecasts greater pressure to raise private sector wages, while a sustained decline is predictive of a deceleration in the rate of wage increases.
Reflecting mixed economic conditions, four of the WTI's seven components made positive contributions to the revised first quarter reading, while three factors were negative.