Category Archives: Workforce

Employment Effects of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid Expansions

Source: Pauline Leung, Alexandre Mas, Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Volume 57, Issue 2, April 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We examine whether the recent expansions in Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act reduced “employment lock” among childless adults who were previously ineligible for public coverage. We compare employment in states that chose to expand Medicaid versus those that chose not to expand, before and after implementation. We find that although the expansion increased Medicaid coverage by 3.0 percentage points among childless adults, there was no significant impact on employment.

Why Aren’t Black Employees Getting More White-Collar Jobs?

Source: Michael Gee, Harvard Business Review, February 28, 2018

….Decades later, I’ve seen very little progress in minority executive employment. It seems the national conversation and media focus on the subject have resulted in minimal impact. And yet the ecosystem supporting diversity is quite large — government agencies, formal corporate diversity programs, universities, consultants, and dozens of civil rights advocacy groups. So why has change been so slow?

For one thing, political rhetoric has created public tumult about the drivers of middle-class decline: globalization, technology, and immigration’s impact on U.S. jobs. Another recurring theme is an allegedly unlevel playing field for white males created by public- and private-sector diversity programs (affirmative action) to attract and promote a more diverse workforce. And the courts have weighed in on “reverse discrimination” cases, slowing the growth of diversity in some universities and companies.

As a longtime African-American executive who’s skeptical of reverse-discrimination claims, I wanted to find answers to a few questions: What exactly do black employment numbers look like today? How are blacks faring in promotions? Are blacks’ gains in executive and management ranks keeping pace with gains in the professional workforce?….

Is Automation Labor-Displacing? Productivity Growth, Employment, and the Labor Share

David Autor, Anna Salomons, prepared for the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity conference – March 2018, February 27, 2018

From the abstract:
Is automation a labor-displacing force? This possibility is both an age-old concern and at the heart of a new theoretical literature considering how labor immiseration may result from a wave of ‘brilliant machines,’ which is in part motivated by declining labor shares in many developed countries. Comprehensive evidence on this labor-displacing channel is at present limited. Using the recent model of Acemoglu and Restrepo (2018b) as an analytical frame, we first outline the various channels through which automation impacts labor´s share of output. We then turn to empirically estimating the employment and labor share impacts of productivity growth—an omnibus measure of technological change—using data on 28 industries for 18 OECD countries since 1970. Our main findings are that although automation—whether measured by Total Factor Productivity growth or instrumented by foreign patent flows or robot adoption—has not been employment-displacing, it has reduced labor’s share in value-added. We disentangle the channels through which these impacts occur, including: own-industry effects, cross-industry input-output linkages, and final demand effects accruing through the contribution of each industry’s productivity growth to aggregate incomes. Our estimates indicate that the labor share-displacing effects of productivity growth, which were essentially absent in the 1970s, have become more pronounced over time, and are most substantial in the 2000s. This finding is consistent with automation having become in recent decades less labor-augmenting and more labor-displacing.

Unfilled Jobs Take Toll on Governments Across the Country

Source: Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, Governing, February 8, 2018

When vacancies are high, there are consequences — and many places are feeling them. …. Some vacancies are expected, even normal, but when they get too high, there are consequences: Permits aren’t renewed, inspections are missed, backlogs grow, overtime costs swell and services are reduced…..

The False Choice Between Automation and Jobs

Source: James Manyika, Michael Spence, Harvard Business Review, February 5, 2018

….The catch is that adopting these technologies will disrupt the world of work. No less significant than the jobs that will be displaced are the jobs that will change—and those that will be created. New research by the McKinsey Global institute suggests that roughly 15% of the global workforce could be displaced by 2030 in a midpoint scenario, but that the jobs likely created will make up for those lost. There is an important proviso: that economies sustain high economic growth and dynamism, coupled with strong trends that will drive demand for work. Even so, between 75 million to 375 million people globally may need to switch occupational categories by 2030, depending on how quickly automation is adopted.

It is no small challenge. The jobs gained will require higher educational attainment and more advanced levels of communication and cognitive ability, as work requiring rote skills such as data processing or collection increasingly are taken over by machines. People will be augmented by increasingly capable machines acting as digital working partners and assistants, further requiring ongoing skills development and evolution. In advanced economies, which the research shows will be the most affected, downward pressure on middle-wage jobs will likely grow, exacerbating the already vexed issue of job and income polarization, although in emerging economies the balance between jobs lost and jobs gained looks to be more favorable in the short- to medium-run., and the net effect is likely to be an acceleration of growth in the middle class…..

What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages
Source: James Manyika, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko, and Saurabh Sanghvi, McKinsey Global Institute, Report, November 2017

Worker Voice in America: A Current Assessment and Exploration of Options

Source: Thomas Kochan, William Kimball, Duanyi Yang, and Erin L. Kelly, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute for Work and Employment Research, Working Draft 1/17/2018

This article reports the results of the first phase of a multi-method study of the state of worker voice in America and options available to workers for closing the gap between the amount of say or influence they expect to have on their job and their actual level of influence. The authors draw on a nationally representative survey of workers that both updates the Freeman and Rogers 1995 survey and one conducted by the Department of Labor in 1977 and goes beyond the scope of these previous efforts to assess worker interest in a wider array of workplace issues including workplace/personal issues, personnel/collective bargaining issues, and higher level organizational values and related issues. The array of voice options examined is also expanded to capture internal firm provided options such as supervisors, coworkers, ombuds systems, grievance procedures, joint committees along with union representation and the newer examples of worker advocacy such as online petitions, occupational associations, and protests. Results indicated that workers believe they ought to have a voice on this full set of workplace issues, there are substantial gaps between their expected and actual voice, a higher percentage of non-union workers want to join a union than was observed in the two prior national surveys, and there are significant variations in the preferences, rates of use, and satisfaction with different voice options. The results suggest that there is a sizable voice gap in American workplaces today but there is no “one sized shoe” (voice option) that fits all workers or all issues.

Here’s how workers would spend the corporate tax cut – if they had a voice
Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, January 30, 2018

Water and Wastewater Workforce: Recruiting Approaches Helped Industry Hire Operators, but Additional EPA Guidance Could Help Identify Future Needs

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-18-102, Published: January 26, 2018

From the highlights:
Projections from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggest that workforce replacement needs for water operators are roughly similar to workforce needs nationwide across all occupations; however, little is known about the effects of any unmet needs on compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. BLS has projected that 8.2 percent of existing water operators will need to be replaced annually between 2016 and 2026. Although BLS projections are intended to capture long-run trends, rather than to forecast precise outcomes in specific years, this predicted replacement rate is roughly similar to the predicted rate of 10.9 percent for all workers across the U.S. economy. Limited information is available to determine whether retirements, or other workforce needs, are affecting drinking water and wastewater utilities’ ability to comply with the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water acts. At a national level, neither the water utilities’ industry associations nor the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has analyzed whether there is a relationship between unmet workforce needs and compliance problems. EPA relies on states to inspect utilities to ensure compliance with the acts. EPA’s inspection guidance documents, for both drinking water and wastewater, advise states to examine the quality and quantity of staff operating and maintaining water utilities. However, the guidance does not advise states to examine future workforce needs. GAO has found that future workforce needs can be identified through strategic workforce planning, which involves developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff to achieve program goals. By adding questions to EPA’s inspection guidance on strategic workforce planning, such as the number of positions needed in the future, EPA could help make this information available for states to assess future workforce needs. Information on future workforce needs could help states and utilities identity potential workforce issues and take action as needed.

Representatives from 11 selected water utilities reported that by using various approaches, they were generally able to meet their current workforce needs but faced some challenges in doing so. Representatives from the selected utilities said that they recruit operators using word of mouth, websites, newspapers, and partnering with local technical schools. However, representatives from small utilities said that even with these approaches, they had difficulty hiring certified operators and instead hired and trained entry-level employees. Additionally, representatives from large utilities said they face difficulties in recruiting skilled workers, such as electricians and mechanics, part of a larger national pattern.

Five federal agencies that GAO reviewed—EPA and the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Labor (DOL), Education, and Veterans Affairs (VA)—have programs or activities that can assist utilities with their workforce needs in several ways, including through guidance, funding, and training. EPA has worked with DOL and industry groups to develop a water-sector competency model to support industry training and with VA to help place disabled veterans in water industry jobs. In addition, USDA funds personnel who travel to rural utilities to provide hands-on assistance through its Circuit Rider program. Four of five small utilities GAO interviewed said they used this program and other USDA technical assistance for training operators.

A Recession-Era Economic Myth Goes Up In Smoke

Source: Meagan Day, Jacobin, January 25, 2018

For years, the media was filled with stories about jobs going unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. Now we know how wrong they were….

Facing a tight labor market, employers are starting to hire workers they previously considered unqualified. Once-picky companies are realizing they can’t sleep on imperfect applicants, lest their job vacancies go unfilled and profits sag. The trend is great news for those typically excluded from the job market, such as formerly incarcerated people. It’s also a victory for left-wing economists, dealing a blow to the supply-side argument that inadequate worker skills are to blame for high unemployment. A new article in the New York Times profiles people on either side of the hiring desk, and they all confirm that corporations are diving uncharacteristically deep into the labor pool to fill vacancies. “We see employers really knocking on the door of our organization in a way that we haven’t seen in probably twenty years,” said a Minneapolis nonprofit director whose organization helps formerly incarcerated people reenter the workforce….

Who Moves Up the Job Ladder?

Source: John Haltiwanger, Henry Hyatt, Erika McEntarfer, Journal of Labor Economics, Volume 36, Number S1, January 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In this paper, we use linked employer-employee data to study the reallocation of heterogeneous workers between heterogeneous firms. We build on recent evidence of a cyclical job ladder that reallocates workers from low-productivity to high-productivity firms through job-to-job moves. In this paper, we turn to the question of who moves up this job ladder and the implications for worker sorting across firms. Not surprisingly, we find that job-to-job moves reallocate younger workers disproportionately from less productive to more productive firms. More surprisingly, especially in the context of the recent literature on assortative matching with on-the-job search, we find that job-to-job moves disproportionately reallocate less educated workers up the job ladder. This finding holds even though we find that more educated workers are more likely to work with more productive firms. We find that while highly educated workers are less likely to match to low-productivity firms, they are also less likely to separate from them, with less educated workers more likely to separate to a better employer in expansions and to be shaken off the ladder (separate to nonemployment) in contractions. Our findings underscore the cyclical role job-to-job moves play in matching workers to better-paying employers.