“So far in this recovery, corporations have captured an unusually high share of the income gains,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The U.S. corporate sector is in a lot better health than the overall economy. And until we get a full recovery in the labor market, this will persist.”
The result has been a golden age for corporate profits, especially among multinational giants that are also benefiting from faster growth in emerging economies like China and India.
…. As a percentage of national income, corporate profits stood at 14.2 percent in the third quarter of 2012, the largest share at any time since 1950, while the portion of income that went to employees was 61.7 percent, near its lowest point since 1966. In recent years, the shift has accelerated during the slow recovery that followed the financial crisis and ensuing recession of 2008 and 2009, said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays.
Corporate earnings have risen at an annualized rate of 20.1 percent since the end of 2008, he said, but disposable income inched ahead by 1.4 percent annually over the same period, after adjusting for inflation.
“There hasn’t been a period in the last 50 years where these trends have been so pronounced,” Mr. Maki said.
Yet conservatives continue to argue that the business climate under President Obama stifles profitability.
This seems a good time to rerun the chart below, taken from data compiled by the Federal Reserve of St. Louis. In the chart, the share of the national economy, or GDP, going to workers’ paychecks is in blue. The share of the economy that is going to after-tax corporate profits is in red. (Again, note that in this combined chart, the two statistics have separate scales.)
– Jay Bookman