Category Archives: Economy

Trump’s tax cuts have so far failed to deliver on one key promise

Source: Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, Business Insider, August 3, 2018

– The Trump tax cuts were pitched as a boon to US workers, with the administration arguing their benefits would trickle-down into rising wages.
– While the tax cuts have meant some Americans are keeping more of their paychecks, no discernible gains in wages have materialized thus far.
– Real average hourly earnings (adjusted for inflation) for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls were totally unchanged in June from one year earlier.

Related:
GDP Is Growing, but Workers’ Wages Aren’t
Source: Michael Madowitz and Seth Hanlon, Center for American Progress, July 26, 2018

President Donald Trump recently said that the U.S. economy is “stronger than ever before” and points to his tax plan as one of the major reasons why.1 But the fact is that workers are not getting ahead in the Trump economy. Official data released in recent weeks have shown that workers’ wages are flat or even slightly down, in real terms, over the last year.2 These data fly in the face of many tax plan boosters who have claimed that the bill’s passage has already been a boon to middle-class workers….

Prosperity Now Scorecard

Source: Prosperity Now Scorecard, 2018

The Prosperity Now Scorecard is a comprehensive resource featuring data on family financial health and policy recommendations to help put all U.S. households on a path to prosperity. The Scorecard equips advocates, policymakers and practitioners with national, state, and local data to jump-start a conversation about solutions and policies that put households on stronger financial footing across five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Homeownership & Housing, Health Care and Education.

The Scorecard assesses all states on their relative ability to provide opportunities for residents to build and retain financial stability and wealth. The state outcome rankings are a measure of financial prosperity and how that prosperity is shared and safeguarded. The Scorecard ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia on 62 outcome measures in the five Issue Areas. Data for an additional four measures are published, but states are not ranked on these measures due to insufficient data at the state level. The overall state outcome rank is determined by the rankings each state receives for outcome measures within each issue area. The issue area grades in the Scorecard are distributed on a curve, based on how each state fares compared with all other states.

The Scorecard also separately assesses states on the strength of 53 policies to expand economic opportunity. Taken together, these 53 policies provide a comprehensive view of what states can do to help residents build and protect wealth in the issue areas described above. Unlike the outcome measures, the strength of states’ policies are assessed based on fixed criteria arrived at through consultation with issue experts and Prosperity Now’s own knowledge of policies that are promising, proven or effective in helping families build and protect financial stability and wealth.

In addition to the outcome and policy measures used to assess states, the Scorecard provides additional data to understand financial stability and prosperity in states and communities. For 44 outcome measures, trend data are available for states to track progress over time. The Scorecard also allows you to drill down to the local level—city, county, Congressional district, tribal area and metro area—on up to 26 measures. Additionally, for 21 outcome measures at the state level and 11 at the local level, the Scorecard includes outcome measure estimates disaggregated by race and ethnicity. The Scorecard also disaggregates 14 outcome measures at the state level by disability status, providing for the first time in 2018 a glimpse into the financial challenges facing people with disabilities. While these additional data do not factor into a state’s overall performance in the Scorecard, we provide the data to allow for a more meaningful analysis of financial security and stability in the United States.

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Credit Conditions: U.S. State And Local Government Credit Conditions Improve As Economic Growth Picks Up

Source: S&P Global Finance, July 26, 2018
(subscription required)

Midway through 2018, accelerating economic growth is providing a favorable near-term backdrop for credit conditions in the state and local government sectors. According to S&P Global Ratings’ updated baseline forecast, U.S. GDP is on a trajectory to expand by 3.0% in real terms in 2018….

Curbing Stock Buybacks: A Crucial Step to Raising Worker Pay and Reducing Inequality — An Analysis of Three Industries — Restaurant, Retail, and Food Manufacturing

Source: Irene Tung and Katy Milani, National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the Roosevelt Institute, July 2018

From the summary:
In a joint publication of the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the Roosevelt Institute, Irene Tung and Katy Milani expose the extent of stock buyback spending across the U.S. economy from 2015 to 2017—finding that companies spent almost 60 percent of net profits on buybacks. At a time of growing economic inequality, with millions of workers in low-wage industries struggling to make ends meet, that is money that corporations could instead use to improve worker pay.

This report is a crucial addition to any effort to address today’s high-profit, low-wage economy, in which corporate executives and shareholders extract value from corporations rather than creating a cycle of continuous productivity growth, through which workers, consumers, and the economy at large benefit.

One of the primary strategies used to extract profits up and out of companies is the stock buyback—a practice in which corporations repurchase their own stocks from the open market to artificially drive up share prices. Stock buybacks greatly benefit corporate executives, but they leave companies with fewer resources available to invest in workers, business expansion, and long-term economic growth.

By highlighting three core industries—restaurant, retail, and food manufacturing, in which millions of our nation’s workers struggle to make ends meet in low-wage, economically insecure jobs—Tung and Milani demonstrate how workers, and thus the economy at large, could benefit if CEOs chose to redirect money spent on stock buybacks toward worker compensation.

Key findings from the report include:
– The restaurant industry spent more on stock buybacks than it made in profits, funding buybacks through debt and cash reserves. Buybacks totaled 136.5 percent of net profits.
– Companies in the retail and food manufacturing industries spent 79.2 percent and 58.2 percent, respectively, of their net profits on share buybacks.
– McDonald’s could pay all of its 1.9 million workers almost $4,000 more a year if the company redirected the money it spends on buybacks to workers’ paychecks instead.
– If Starbucks reallocated money from share repurchases to compensation, every worker could get a $7,000 raise.
– With the money currently spent on buybacks, Lowes, CVS, and Home Depot could give each of their workers raises of at least $18,000 a year.

Relate:Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy?
Source: Annie Lowrey, The Atlantic, July 31, 2018

A new report finds that big companies could have given their workers thousands of dollars’ worth of raises with the money they spent on their own shares.

Connecticut in Crisis: How inequality is paralyzing ‘America’s country club’

Source: Jared Bennett, Center for Public Integrity, July 25, 2018

The state is caught in an economic straitjacket and there’s no easy way out…..

…. Blue chip companies like General Electric have either left or are threatening to leave. A yawning budget deficit continues to loom over the state, amplified by some of the nation’s most glaring economic inequality. Greenwich, home to hedge funders and Manhattan corporate titans, and the Norman Rockwell suburbs of Westport, New Canaan and Darien share few priorities with Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, gritty cities struggling with searing poverty and fiscal disaster. Connecticut’s political leaders must choose between what seem like equally rotten options: cut services, and push more burden onto the urban poor, or hike taxes, and risk repelling both the suburban rich who pay much of the freight and new businesses that might consider moving here. Put simply, Connecticut is in a bind with precious little room to maneuver.

Connecticut’s troubles are extreme but hardly unique. The recovery that has entrenched Connecticut into the haves and have-nots has been unequal in other regions as well – from Florida to California and down to Texas. As the stock market climbs but wages remain relatively flat, the Constitution State serves as a troubling bellwether of national priorities that seem to favor wealth creation for the few before investments in the broader economy. ….

When Wall Street Showed Up, Fortunes Sank in This Small American Town

Source: Thomas Black and Christopher Cannon, Bloomberg, July 24, 2018

….True enough, the mill in Wickliffe, the county seat, would have been staring down the barrel with or without the involvement of first Cerberus Capital Management and then Apollo Global Management. They came in, as private-equity firms often do, as business was on the skids, aiming for a turnaround.

Opened in 1970 by Westvaco Corp., the mill produced coated paper for magazines and glossy marketing inserts—a profitable enterprise in the pre-internet age. Times changed. Former employees said worries about the future began when Westvaco merged with Mead Corp. in 2001 and ratcheted up when Cerberus acquired the coated-paper unit in a $2.3 billion leveraged buyout in 2005…..

….To be sure, the mill’s idling can’t be held solely responsible for the county’s credit and debt woes. Other employers have disappeared in recent years. Within a 50-mile radius of Wickliffe, two tire plants and a Honeywell International Inc. factory that converted uranium ore into fuel for nuclear plants shuttered, and a government-run uranium enrichment facility is winding down.

The death of the paper mill hurt the most, with about 350 jobs with generous benefits lost. Locals blame Wall Street investors for accelerating what might haven been the inevitable (there’s still debate about that in Wickliffe), echoing detractors of the private-equity model that has a bumpy turnaround track record but that has been attracting record amounts from investors because they promise juicy returns in a world of ultra-low interest rates. The $3 trillion industry pulled in a record $453 billion last year.

Officials at Apollo and Cerberus declined to comment for this story….

New Study Confirms That American Workers Are Getting Ripped Off

Source: Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, July 6, 2018

…. Economists have put forward a variety of explanations for the aberrant absence of wage growth in the middle of a recovery: Automation is slowly (but irrevocably) reducing the market-value of most workers’ skills; a lack of innovation has slowed productivity growth to a crawl; well-paid baby-boomers are retiring, and being replaced with millennials who have enough experience to do the boomers’ jobs — but not enough to demand their salaries.

There’s likely some truth to these narratives.

But a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offers a more straightforward — and political — explanation: American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.

The OECD doesn’t make this argument explicitly. But its report lays waste to the idea that the plight of the American worker can be chalked up to impersonal economic forces, instead of concrete political decisions. If the former were the case, then American laborers wouldn’t be getting a drastically worse deal than their peers in other developed nations. But we are. Here’s a quick rundown of the various ways that American workers are getting ripped off:

American workers are more likely to be poor (by the standards of their nation). ….
We also get fired more often — and with far less notice. ….
Our government does less for us when we’re out of work than just about anyone else’s. ….
Labor’s share of income has been falling faster in the U.S. than almost anywhere else. ….

OECD Employment Outlook 2018

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, July 4, 2018

The 2018 edition of the OECD Employment Outlook reviews labour market trends and prospects in OECD countries. Chapter 1 presents recent labour market developments. Wage growth remains sluggish due to low inflation expectations, weak productivity growth and adverse trends in low-pay jobs. Chapter 2 looks at the decline of the labour share and shows that this is partially related to the emergence of “superstar” firms, which invest massively in capital-intensive technologies. Chapter 3 investigates the role of collective bargaining institutions for labour market performance. Systems that co-ordinate wages across sectors are associated with better employment outcomes, but firm-level adjustments of sector-level agreements are sometimes required to avoid adverse effects on productivity. Chapter 4 examines the role of policy to facilitate the transition towards new jobs of workers who were dismissed for economic reasons, underlying the need of early interventions in the unemployment spell. Chapter 5 analyses jobseekers’ access to unemployment benefits and shows that most jobseekers do not receive unemployment benefits and coverage has often been falling since the Great Recession. Chapter 6 investigates the reason why the gender gap in labour income increases over the working life, stressing the role of the lower professional mobility of women around childbirth.

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WEBINARS

Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining systems are at a crossroads in many OECD countries. In this webinar, we will assess the role that collective bargaining systems play for employment, wages, working conditions, wage inequality and productivity (chapter 3 of the publication). We will also discuss what policy-makers, unions and employers’ organisations can do to adapt their national bargaining systems to the challenges of a changing world of work.

The decline in wage growth
10 years after the beginning of the crisis, there are finally more people with a job than before. Yet, wage growth remains considerably below pre-crisis trends. In this webinar, we will address factors behind the persistent wage growth slowdown (chapter 1 of the publication). While low inflation and productivity growth explain much of these patterns, the dynamics of low-pay jobs and the wages associated to them also play a significant, but understudied, role.

KEY COUNTRY FINDINGS
United States

The Case For More Labor Unions Is The Most Obvious Case You Can Possibly Imagine
Source: Hamilton Nolan, splinter, July 5, 2018

….The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s new annual Employment Outlook report is a particularly useful tool for gauging how the United States measures up to the rest of the developed world in terms of economic policies and outcomes. In this context, we have a lot of work to do: “The low-income rate in the U.S. [defined as the share of the working-age population living with less than 50% of median household disposable income] is one of the highest in the OECD,” the report says. “The rate in the U.S. is 14.8% compared to an OECD average of 10.6%. The lowest rate is found in the Czech Republic at just 5.8%.”….

Is it great to be a worker in the U.S.? Not compared with the rest of the developed world.
Source: Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, Wonkblog, July 4, 2018

The U.S. labor market is hot. Unemployment is at 3.8 percent, a level it’s hit only once since the 1960s, and many industries report deep labor shortages. Old theories of what’s wrong with the labor market — such as a lack of people with necessary skills — are dying fast. Earnings are beginning to pick up, and the Federal Reserve envisions a steady regimen of rate hikes.

So why does a large subset of workers continue to feel left behind? We can find some clues in a new 296-page report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a club of advanced and advancing nations that has long been a top source for international economic data and research. Most of the figures are from 2016 or before, but they reflect underlying features of the economies analyzed that continue today.

In particular, the report shows the United States’s unemployed and at-risk workers are getting very little support from the government, and their employed peers are set back by a particularly weak collective-bargaining system…..

Is immigration bad for the economy? 4 essential reads

Source: Bryan Keogh, Nicole Zelniker, The Conversation, July 3, 2018

….Economists and other scholars have been tackling this topic for years, resulting in many studies that explore the effect immigrants of different stripes have on the economy.

All in all, scholars who have written for The Conversation have concluded immigration’s impact is actually quite positive….

Less Bang for Your Buck? How Social Capital Constrains the Effectiveness of Social Welfare Spending

Source: Mallory E. Compton, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Online First, First Published June 21, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Rising economic insecurity in recent decades has focused attention on the importance of social welfare programs in managing household financial stability. Some governments are more effective than others in managing this outcome, and informal social institutions help explain why. Social capital is expected to shape economic security through multiple mechanisms, but whether the effect is to magnify or mitigate volatility is an open question. Part of the answer has to do with how social capital interacts with policy implementation, and whether it conditions the effectiveness of government spending. Evidence from the U.S. states from 1986 to 2010 fails to support a benevolent social capital thesis—not only is social capital associated with greater economic insecurity, there is no evidence that it improves social welfare effectiveness. However, greater spending on some social programs can mitigate the adverse impact of social capital on economic security.