Category Archives: Unemployment

Traditional Measures of Unemployment Are Missing the Mark

Source: Mark Paul, Dollars & Sense, no. 341, web-only, May/June 2019

We’ve heard it countless times in recent media accounts: The economy is at “full employment.” The most recent jobs numbers, out the first week in May, show the official unemployment rate, and applications for unemployment benefits are at a 50-year low. The last time a recovery was able to push the unemployment rate to these levels was in 1969, when my mom was just entering elementary school and the United States was in the heyday of the “Golden Age” of capitalism.

But economists are puzzled. Despite low unemployment (the current rate is just 3.6%), significant wage increases remain elusive. In other words, workers aren’t benefiting much. This is deeply troubling in an era of unprecedented inequality, driven in large part by decades of a falling wage share. The size of our economic pie may be getting bigger, but the wage share, or the share of the economic pie going to workers, has been contracting. Furthermore, a lack of wage growth isn’t allowing for the true recovery that Main Street so desperately needs…..

Future Work

Source: Jeffrey M. Hirsch – University of North Carolina School of Law, February 14, 2019

From the abstract:
The Industrial Revolution. The Digital Age. These revolutions radically altered the workplace and society. We may be on the cusp of a new era—one that will rival or even surpass these historic disruptions. Technology such as artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and cutting-edge monitoring devices are developing at a rapid pace. These technologies have already begun to infiltrate the workplace and will continue to do so at ever increasing speed and breadth.

This Article addresses the impact of these emerging technologies on the workplace of the present and the future. Drawing upon interviews with leading technologists, the Article explains the basics of these technologies, describes their current applications in the workplace, and predicts how they are likely to develop in the future. It then examines the legal and policy issues implicated by the adoption of technology in the workplace—most notably job losses, employee classification, privacy intrusions, discrimination, safety and health, and impacts on disabled workers. These changes will surely strain a workplace regulatory system that is ill-equipped to handle them. What is unclear is whether the strain will be so great that the system breaks, resulting in a new paradigm of work.

Whether or not we are on the brink of a workplace revolution or a more modest evolution, emerging technology will exacerbate the inadequacies of our current workplace laws. This Article discusses possible legislative and judicial reforms designed to ameliorate these problems and stave off the possibility of a collapse that would leave a critical mass of workers without any meaningful protection, power, or voice. The most far-reaching of these options is a proposed “Law of Work” that would address the wide-ranging and interrelated issues posed by these new technologies via a centralized regulatory scheme. This proposal, as well as other more narrowly focused reforms, highlight the major impacts of technology on our workplace laws, underscore both the current and future shortcomings of those laws, and serve as a foundation for further research and discussion on the future of work.

Whom Do Employers Want? The Role of Recent Employment and Unemployment Status and Age

Source: Henry S. Farber, Chris M. Herbst, Dan Silverman, Till von Wachter, Journal of Labor Economics, Ahead of Print, February 19, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We use a résumé audit study to investigate the role of employment and unemployment histories in callbacks to job applications. We find that applicants with 52 weeks of unemployment have a lower callback rate than those with shorter spells. There is no relationship, however, between spell length and callback among applicants with spells of 24 weeks or less. We also find that both younger and older applicants have a lower callback probability than prime-aged applicants. Finally, we find that applicants who are employed at the time of application have a lower callback rate than do unemployed applicants.

Rural people with disabilities are still struggling to recover from the recession

Source: Lillie Greiman, Andrew Myers, Bryce Ward, Catherine Ipsen, The Conversation, January 28, 2019

After the devastating losses of the Great Recession, the U.S. has enjoyed one of the longest expansions in its recorded history. For nearly 100 straight months, the U.S. economy has added jobs.

But not all groups have shared equally in the recovery. African-Americans and people in rural communities have been particularly slow to recover, compared to their white and urban peers.

Our team at the University of Montana’s Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities published a new analysis on Jan. 10. Our research shows that people with disabilities, particularly those in rural areas, have also experienced a longer, deeper recession and a much slower recovery. ….

Why Aren’t U.S. Workers Working?

Source: Mary C. Daly, Joseph H. Pedtke, Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau, and Annemarie Schweinert, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, FRBSF Economic Letter 2018-24, November 13, 2018

Labor force participation among U.S. men and women ages 25 to 54 has been declining for nearly 20 years, a stark contrast with rising participation in Canada over this period. Three-fourths of the difference between the two countries can be explained by the growing gap in labor force attachment of women. A key factor is the extensive parental leave policies in Canada. If the United States could reverse the trend in participation of prime-age women to match Canada, it would see 5 million additional prime-age workers join the labor force.

Is the Quality of Nursing Homes Countercyclical? Evidence From 2001 Through 2015

Source: Sean Shenghsiu Huang, John R Bowblis, The Gerontologist, Advance Articles, Published: December 7, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background and Objectives:
To examine whether nursing homes (NHs) provide better quality when unemployment rates rise (countercyclical) and explore mechanisms contributing to the relationship between quality and unemployment rates.

Research Design and Methods:
The study uses the data on privately owned, freestanding NHs in the continental United States that span a period from 2001 through 2015. The empirical analysis relies on panel fixed-effect regressions with the key independent variable being the county-level unemployment rate. NH quality is measured using deficiencies, outcomes, and care process measures. We also examine nursing staff levels, as well as employee turnover and retention.

Results:
NHs have better quality when unemployment rates increase. Higher unemployment rates are associated with fewer deficiencies and lower deficiency scores. This countercyclical relationship is also found among other quality measures. In terms of mechanisms, we find higher nursing staff levels, lower employee turnover, and better workforce retention when unemployment rates rise. Improvement in staffing is likely contributing to better quality during recessions. Interestingly, these effects predominately occur in for-profit NHs for deficiencies and staffing levels.

Discussions and Implications:
NH quality is countercyclical. With near record-low unemployment rates in 2018, regulatory agencies should pay close attention to NH quality when and where the local economy registers strong growth. On the other hand, the finding of the unemployment rate–staffing/turnover relationship also suggests that policies increasing staffing and reducing employee turnover may not only improve NH quality but also have the potential to smooth quality fluctuations between business cycles.

Local government – Ohio, Michigan and Maryland: General Motors’ plant closures underscore the importance of economic diversity

Source: Francis A Mamo, Rachel Cortez, Gregory W. Lipitz, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Sector Comment, November 28, 2018
(subscription required)

On 26 November, General Motors Company (Baa3 stable) announced it will halt production at four US manufacturing plants as soon as March 2019. The closures are credit negative for several local governments in Ohio (Aa1 stable), Michigan (Aa1 stable) and Maryland (Aaa stable).

Collectively, the four plants employ more than 3,800 people and had a 2017 payroll of $480 million (see exhibit 1). All of the closures are credit negative for the affected local governments, but closure of the Lordstown plant in Warren, Ohio (Baa1 negative) will have a pronounced negative effect on Trumbull County’s (Aa3) employment base….

New York’s Experience after the Tipped Minimum Wage Increase – Restaurant worker wages, employment, and number of establishments have grown in the past two years.

Source: Institute for Policy Studies and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, October 2018

A new analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage and jobs data shows that in the last two years since raising the tipped minimum wage, New York state saw a significant boost in take home pay — wages and tips — earned by full-service restaurant workers and, contrary to predictions by minimum wage skeptics, an increase in both the number of full-service restaurant jobs and full-service restaurant establishments.

A joint project by the Institute for Policy Studies and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, this research advances previous findings published in the Washington Post on the impact of the 2015 increase in the tipped minimum wage in New York state.

Why Are Unemployment Insurance Claims So Low?

Source: Dante DeAntonio, Regional Financial Review, Vol. 29 no. 2, October 2018
(subscription required)

Initial claims for unemployment insurance continue to fall at an impressive rate, and the level of claims is low by any historical comparison. While the timeliness and frequency of UI data make it useful as an early labor market signal, it is important to understand the factors that impact the data. In this paper we show that recent changes in state UI laws have worked to depress new UI filings during the current expansion by as many as 100,000 claims per month.