Tag Archives: Labor

DIY Economic News for 2018: Some Suggestions and Sources

The gripe noting the emphasis (or narrow focus) on stock market “news” is a recurring one on this blog, but perhaps it’s high time to suggest some sources which will provide a more comprehensive picture than merely stock market numbers and unemployment figures.  Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:

Labor Information:  What we get on television broadcasts and from most print media are national numbers, however this obfuscates the point that not all parts of the country are experiencing employment (and unemployment) in the same way.   To find out more about state and local employment there’s information available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at this page. Nevada, for example, is in the western region in the BLS categorization of various statistics, and more specifically as the national unemployment rate is 3.9% nationally (October 2017) the Clark County rate is 5.1%.(pdf)  Although employment in the construction sector is up in Clark County, NV, the rate is altogether to close to that of Cleveland, OH  which was 5.2% (pdf)  Unlike Clark County, which saw a decrease in unemployment, Cleveland actually ticked up from 2016’s 5.1% to 5.2%.   Using the handy interactive from the BLS link give will allow a person to see differences within a state, such as the 5.1% unemployment rate in Las Vegas and the 3.9% unemployment rate in the Reno area. (pdf)

A summary of state unemployment rates is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of November 2017 the lowest unemployment rate in the country is in Hawaii (2.0%) and the highest unemployment rate belongs to Alaska which has a rate of 7.2%.

The BLS also provides employment projections (for the next 10 years) complete with a graphic illustrating the fastest growing occupations.  Presidential climate change denial notwithstanding, we should observe that the two fastest growing occupations are solar photovoltaic  installers (105.3% increase) and wind turbine technicians (96.1% increase).

A few recommended bookmarks:  AFL-CIO website;  UAW website; SEIU website;  Nevadans will want to keep up with Culinary Worker’s news;  the Communications Workers of America is also highly informative.   Labor Notes is also recommended.

Income Information:  For those who don’t have FRED bookmarked — please do, you’ll be pleased with yourself for doing so.  One of the many topics covered and charted is median household income.   A person can also find information about the Income GINI Ratio for Households (by race), and Real Mean Personal Income.   It would be difficult to imagine what information Isn’t available from FRED.

Once in a blue moon the media reports on the release of the Beige Book from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.  It is a compilation of anecdotal reports from each of the Federal Reserve districts, and is useful for those wanting to drill down into regional economic conditions.  It’s published eight times per year, with the next release due out on January 17, 2018.

The St. Louis Fed provides FRED, and the New York Federal Reserve is the go-to place for information about debt, from student to household.  See their Center for Microeconomic Data.  The NY Fed has its own blog, also informative on a variety of topics.   Readers might like to start with the NY Fed’s report on political polarization and consumer expectations.

There’s FRED, the Beige Book, and the NY Fed, and then there’s the Census Bureau, which tracks income inequality.

There are thousands of more sources and links which will prove helpful to those interested in economic trends, and this is by NO means a comprehensive list.  However, I do hope these links will indicate to any reader that there is a wide variety of sources describing our economy going well beyond the narrow focus on stock market numbers and unemployment statistics!

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Filed under Economy, Nevada, Nevada economy, Politics

Sorry Nevada, No Trump Mall Walk For You?

Trump Soap Dish Mall Scene President-elect Mango Mess is taking a page out of the 1991 comedy “Soap Dish” in the form of a ‘victory tour’ – but only of the states he won.  So, no Mall Walk in the Silver State.   (If you haven’t seen, or don’t remember “Soap Dish,” try it. Okay, it doesn’t have all that many stars in the IMDB reviews – but I liked it, and if you’re in need of a bit of comedic relief right now, it’s a good movie for popcorn and relaxing.)

While the BLOTUS is taking his adulation tour and victory lap it might be well for him to remember (a) he lost the popular vote, and (b) there has never been a president of the United States of America who met with unadulterated adulation in the history of this benighted nation.  So, when the anti-Mango Mess signage comes out …

Recall, that calls for “give him a chance” lasted only a matter of days until he’d appointed a downright White Supremacist misogynist as his right hand man in the Oval Office.  That didn’t take long at all. Then he appointed a fringe lunatic conspiracy theorist anti-Muslim gadfly to his entourage. 

Recall, that he’s nominating Senator Jefferson (Davis) (General P.G.T.) Beauregard Session (R-AL) to be Attorney General – this nomination for a man who was declared  too racist to be a federal judge.

Recall, that no one has forgotten the whole Email Barrage leveled at Secretary Clinton while the Vice President Elect is fighting in court to keep his emails away from public scrutiny. Oh, the Irony!  And, by the way – What IS in those BLOTUS income tax returns that we aren’t supposed to see?

On the brighter side of the mall – I don’t expect the left side of the political spectrum to line up in lock step  opposition to the BLOTUS, but what I do expect is that opposition to the BLOTUS Agenda will be widespread and genuinely hostile.  For example, getting Democrats lined out is a bit like the old saw about transporting frogs in a wheelbarrow, but in this instance that may be a good thing.   Those whose special concern is environmental, plus those whose vital concerns are for civil and human rights, and those who are particularly sensitive to women’s issues, combined with those who see economic and consumer issues as primal, are all in opposition and the attacks will come on a variety of fronts simultaneously.  It should be interesting to see how BLOTUS responds.  More trips to the Mall?

As BLOTUS traipses through the Malls awaiting his recognition, it would be nice to see (1) reports that various and sundry organizations are planning “issue ad” campaigns.  Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife? Nature Conservancy? NAACP? Urban League? Planned Parenthood Action? Etc.  (2) reports that donors are making these issue ad campaigns possible.  (3) New organizations and coalitions are making informative commercials and message ads visible on TV screens nationwide.   A few “call your Congressman/woman” to “demand protection from predatory lenders,” would be welcome, as would advisories about protecting Americans from voter suppression strategies. 

Too bad it all comes down to money at some point, but we do need people to step up to support efforts by the AFL-CIO, Labor Organizations, Environmental organizations, Civil Rights organizations, consumer organizations, and women’s issue organizations, immigration organization (etc!) so that the dangers presented by a BLOTUS Administration can be publicized.  Might it be nice if for every young person who marches in opposition to BLOTUS, sign in hand, there were two older Americans, passed the marching stage, who can write a check or make a recurring donation to a progressive association or organization?

Think about it.  There’s no reason for every walk in the mall to be a walk in the park.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, racism, Republicans

Work Pay Live?

Want to see what a “recovery” looks like in terms of job openings? Here’s the FRED graph:

Jobs by category 2014 Note the increasing line for total non-farm jobs, and the almost parallel line for total private sector job openings.  What can we tell from the two lines at the bottom — that government employment and jobs in education and health services have not seen the increases indicated in the total job market or in the private sector job market.

What makes the greenish line (education and health care services) line so disturbing is that two health care related sectors — health care support and health care practitioners/technical — are projected to grow by 28% and 22% respectively by 2022.  [BLS]  Education, library/media, and training positions show a projected 11% increase in this decade. [BLS]

As we might expect given a aging population, personal care assistance jobs are projected to increase to 580,800 by 2022, and home health aide positions are projected to increase to 424,200 in the same period. [BLS]  That’s the good news for job seekers, the less exciting news is that personal care aides earn an average of $19,910 per year, while home health aides earn an average of $20,820. [BLS]

The third highest projection for new jobs comes in the retail sales category, 434,700 but with average earnings of $21,110.  The only high projection category which would put an employee in ‘middle class’ territory is that of registered nurses, with a projected need for 526,800 in the next few years and estimated average earnings of $65,470 annually. [BLS]

Federal Poverty Guidelines 2014Unfortunately, what we have here is a situation in which three areas of projected high job growth over the next 18 years (personal aides, retail sales, and home health care) are jobs which would not support a family of four on a single income above the federal poverty guidelines.  The estimated $19,910 a personal care aide is estimated to earn annually would barely keep a three person family at the poverty line.

If we extrapolate the numbers, by 2022 we will have an increased number of home health aides, each earning approximately $20,820.  That’s about $10.00 per hour, or a total contribution of $8,831,844,000 to the national economy.  This sounds nice until we get out MIT’s Living Wage Calculator.

A living wage for a adult + one child in Reno, Nevada is currently calculated at $20.39 per hour. For a family of four it’s about $19.22.  [MIT]  The current estimated wage for home health aides ($10.01/yr) doesn’t come close to either living wage calculation.

How about our retail sales person?  Nationally, we’re projected to need about 434,700 more of them by 2022. The 2012 median wage in retail sales is $21,410 or about $10.29 per hour.  How does this compare to the Living Wage Calculation for Las Vegas, Nevada?  One adult + one child would need an hourly wage of $20.67 and two adults and two children would need earnings of $19.50/hr. The $10.29 isn’t close — again.

There are at least three elements to consider in all these numbers. (1) Those jobs which are now identified as high growth tend to be in low wage positions; (2) Low wage positions don’t meet the Living Wage standards; and (3) If we continue to pay relatively low wages for high growth area jobs then we can reasonably expect to have more families qualify for public assistance.

Oh, but if we raise minimum wages for employees what of the KIDS?  For starters, most minimum wage workers aren’t children. Yes, most young people start out earning minimum wages, however this group only constitutes 19.8% of all minimum wage earners. [BLS table 1]  80.2% of all minimum wage workers are over 25.

If we drill down into the table we find that those “kids” aged 16-19 comprise about 5.4% of the minimum wage workforce, and men over 25 constitute 39.4% of the minimum wage workforce, while women over 25 are 40.8% of that total.   In short, it doesn’t do for us to hide behind the kid’s jeans during any attempt to argue that raising the minimum wage will be “bad for them.”

Well, there’s always that old canard that increasing the minimum wage reduces job growth.  For all the numbers tossed into the speculative pool — the FACTS of the matter don’t match the mythology.

Once more from the MIT economic study:

“Dube’s research looks at the effects of minimum wage differentials across state borders where the minimum wage is higher on one side of the border than the other. His research looks at the service industry, which he said employs the majority of minimum wage workers. According to his findings, both the short and long term effects of the increased wage on unemployment were negligible.”

What does raising the minimum wage do?  The Dube Study looked in that corner as well:

“Finally he added that work done by economists at the Federal Reserve showed minimum wage increase led to significant increases in purchases of durable goods. “From a perspective of stimulating demand, minimum wages will tend to increase demand by increasing the purchasing power of those workers.”

So, on one hand we have negligible impact on employment levels versus significant increases in the purchases of durable goods — which one sounds like a better common sense option?

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Filed under Economy

Senator Heller’s Nostalgia for the Good Old Days of 1896

Child LaborWho knew Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was so nostalgic for the Good Old Days?  Senator Heller is one of the co-sponsors of The Tea Party Darlins’ shiny new bill to bring back the Glorious Early Days of the Industrial Revolution.   Senators Coburn and Paul have  introduced the Enumerated Powers Act of 2013. This bill gives members of Congress the procedural tools necessary to stop unconstitutional legislation. And what is “unnecessary?” [TP]

The third part of this truly unbelievable bill is a gateway to the past — “3)      Prohibits the use of the Commerce Clause, except for “the regulation of the buying and selling of goods or services, or the transporting for those purposes, across boundaries with foreign nations, across State lines, or with Indian tribes…” [Coburn]

So, let’s declare unconstitutional some of those little irritants that so burden the Titans of Industry, things like:

Child Labor Laws

8 hour days

Weekends

Overtime Pay

We should all be so grateful to our corporate masters that we should revert to sub-menial jobs with 12 hour shifts for 75 cents an hour instead of participating in a pension plan.

Liability for Industrial Accidents

Sweatshop regulation

Strikes and job actions

Master contracts

Sexual harassment and discrimination statutes

Minimum wages

In Senator Heller’s Ideal World if your boss wants to institute 12 hour shifts with no overtime pay — that’s perfectly all right.  If your daughter’s boss harasses her in the work place — she’ll just have to quit to be rid of him.  If your son’s employer wants him to drive his big-rig long into the day and night — so be it.

If your wife’s minimum wage job pays $1.25/hr. she should be grateful to have any job at all.  If you are injured on the job and are unable to work — that’s your problem.

If you’ve not read Otto Bettmann’s “The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible,” run — don’t walk to your nearest library or bookstore and get your copy today — it will explain just exactly the working conditions Senator Heller thinks are appropriate for the 21st century American worker.

Now, are there any questions about who Senator Heller represents in the U.S. Senate?

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Filed under Heller, labor

Nevada GOP Reps Support Assault On 40 Hour Work Week

SweatshopRepresentatives Mark Amodei (R-NV2) and Joe Heck (R-NV3) voted on May 8, 2013 in favor of H.R. 1406 “To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide compensatory time for employees in the private sector.”  [roll call 137]  The CRS Summary describes the bill:

“Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 – Amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to authorize private employers to provide compensatory time off to private employees at a rate of 1 1/2 hours per hour of employment for which overtime compensation is required. Authorizes an employer to provide compensatory time only if it is in accordance with an applicable collective bargaining agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, an agreement between the employer and employee.”

Trade your time and a half for comp time? What could possibly go wrong? Let us count the ways!

#1. Right off the bat, this is a frontal assault on the 40 hour work week.  The old system, in place since 1938, (pdf) is a dis-incentive for employers to demand longer hours of their employees because over-time costs more, one and one half times more.  This Republican “innovation” allows employers to require more over time work, without any extra compensation.

#2. There are limits on the employee, not necessarily on the employer. For example, under the terms of the bill employees may not accrue more than 160 hours of comp-time in any calendar year.  If there are approximately 260 work days a year (52×5) and we take out 5 for holidays leaving 255 days, then we’d have a total of 2,040 work hours (255×8) during a calendar year.   160 hours is about 8% of the total number of annual work hours.  In some jobs it wouldn’t take much to hit the limit quickly.

#3. H.R. 1406 slaps the wrists of employers who coerce employees into taking comp-time rather than over-time payment with a serious application of a soggy noodle.

“Makes an employer who violates such requirements liable to the affected employee in the amount of the compensation rate for each hour of compensatory time accrued, plus an additional equal amount as liquidated damages, reduced for each hour of compensatory time used.”

Got that?  If an employer threatens an employee who doesn’t want to take comp-time, the employee will be compensated for the “lost hours” plus liquidated damages MINUS each hour of comp-time used.  So, hypothetical Mr. Grinch demands that his employees participate int he comp-time scheme.  Miss Cindy Lou doesn’t want to participate, but is given a “choice” by Grinch to either take the comp-time or (a) get nothing or (b) get canned. She takes the comp-time.  When she complains to authorities she’s to be “paid” back but the time she took off (at the firm suggestion of Grinch) is counted against her?  Lovely.   The “choice” to take uncompensated time off isn’t a viable choice for most working families.

#4. Nothing in the bill requires the employer to be consistent about over-time or comp-time policies.   In fact, an employer can shuck the comp-time scheme if he or she gives the employees 30 days notice.   Then there’s the matter of when the comp-time will be taken.  It would be in the employer’s interest to have employees work over-time during peak seasons and  give comp-time during slow periods.  There’s NO flexibility for employees if the employer is the one determining when the leave can be taken.  Does Cindy Lou need to cash in some comp-time because The Kid is out of school with chicken pox?  Nothing in the bill requires any employer to award comp-time except at his or her own discretion.  This is “flexibility” for the employer and the same old (but this time uncompensated) routine for the employee.

#5.  Employees could easily end up bankrolling the employer in this scheme.  Here’s one example:

“That’s because employers would be able to pay workers nothing at all for overtime work at the time the work is performed and could schedule comp time off at no extra cost to them (for example, during less busy periods when co-workers can pick up the slack). So, when employees request comp time, they essentially become lenders to employers. For example, a worker earning $12 an hour and banking the maximum amount of hours (160) would be giving an interest-free loan of $1,920 to his or her employer.” [AFLCIO]

If we pick the thread in #4, in which the comp-time is scheduled at the convenience of the employer, and the employer is getting the services of the employee at NO EXTRA CHARGE, then those 160 hours of accrued time become a form of freebie loan to the employer.

The Republicans in Congress appear to take some pride in saying they are “pro-business,” and that they promote “pro-business” policies — you can’t get much more pro-business than assaulting the requirement of the 40 hour work week, or the eight hour day, or the notion that employees should “donate” their time to their employer.  What’s next?  By GOP lights should families have the “flexibility” to send their 10 year old kids into the factories? Only in the burbling boiling  cauldron of crazy — does H.R. 1406 constitute a “pro-family, pro-worker” act.

Representatives Horsford (D-NV) and Titus (D-NV) had the good sense to vote against this patently pro-sweatshop bit of legislative stew.

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Filed under Amodei, Economy, Heck, labor