(Image: AAP/Deam Lewins)

Yesterday’s Wage Price Index (WPI) for the final three months of last year and 2020 as a whole contains a depressing message for the Reserve Bank: wage rises strong enough to push inflation higher will not be coming for years. That should be a wake-up call for inflation hawks pushing a rate rise next year -- though it's unlikely to interrupt their "rate rise looms" dreams.

The quarterly WPI rise of 0.6% for the December quarter released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) gave an annual rate of 1.4% for 2020 (that was the second quarter in a row of 1.4%). That’s sharply lower than the 2.2% annual rate at the end of 2019 and by far the lowest year on record -- wages growth bottomed out at 2.9% during the financial crisis.

There was an illusory quality to the 0.6% quarterly rise as well, given much of it was driven by the reversal of short-term wage reductions imposed by employers during lockdowns -- workers were simply moving back to their pre-COVID incomes. Not exactly worth breaking out the bubbly.