August 2015 US Unemployment Rate

  • Employers added 173,000 jobs in Aug., jobless rates falls to 5.1%,  By Paul Davidson, September 4, 2015, USA Today: “Payroll growth slowed in August as employers added 173,000 jobs in a key report that could help the Federal Reserve decide whether to raise interest rates later this month. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a separate survey of households, fell from 5.3% to 5.1%, lowest since March 2008. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected employment gains of 218,000, according to their median forecast…”
  • Unemployment rate dips to 5.1 percent amid 173,000 new jobs in August, By Scott Neuman, September 4, 2015, National Public Radio: “The Labor Department says the U.S. economy added 173,000 jobs in August, a figure that fell short of expectations but nonetheless appeared to shrug off turmoil in overseas markets, particularly China. In a separate survey, the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said the unemployment rate had dipped to 5.1 percent — a seven-year low.  Many economists had forecast 220,000 new jobs in August, an increase over the 215,000 jobs added the month before. July’s tally was revised upward to 245,000 jobs, while June’s figure was revised to 245,000 from 231,000…”

Low-Wage Work

Low-income workers see biggest drop in paychecks, By Nelson D. Schwartz, September 2, 2015, New York Times: “Despite steady gains in hiring, a falling unemployment rate and other signs of an improving economy, take-home pay for many American workers has effectively fallen since the economic recovery began in 2009, according to a new study by an advocacy group that is to be released on Thursday.  The declines were greatest for the lowest-paid workers in sectors where hiring has been strong — home health care, food preparation and retailing — even though wages were already below average to begin with in those service industries…”

Education Savings Accounts

This innovative idea is helping low-income families save for college, By Jillian Berman, September 2, 2015, MarketWatch: “When he was a first-grader, Emily Gardner’s 8-year-old son Elijah Peters told her he wasn’t interested in college. He dreamed of becoming a handyman like his father instead. She signed him up for a college savings plan anyway. Now she’s glad she did. After a field trip to Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., where Elijah held a pig’s heart and used Mentos to create an explosion in a bottle of Diet Coke, he began depositing his birthday and Christmas money into the account and asking his grandparents to help him save even more. ‘Just to hear that from a child who said ‘I’m not going to college,’ it is fantastic,’ said Gardner, 31, of Wabash, Ind., where she is director of the city’s downtown economic and community development program…”

Gender Pay Gap – California

California equal pay bill may be toughest in nation, By Samantha Masunaga, September 2, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “California’s new Fair Pay Act, which awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, may be the nation’s most aggressive attempt yet to close the salary gap between men and women. Supporters said the legislation, passed unanimously by the California Senate on Monday, closes loopholes that prevented enforcement of existing anti-discrimination law.  The bill ensures that male and female employees who perform ‘substantially similar’ work receive equal pay, even if their job titles aren’t the same or if they work in different offices for the same employer…”

Elder Poverty – California

UCLA study finds million-plus elderly Californians in poverty, By Dan Walters, August 31, 2015, Sacramento Bee: “More than 300,000 elderly Californians are officially poor, as measured by the federal government, but their numbers triple to more than 1 million when the ‘hidden poor’ are counted, according to a new study from UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research…”

School Breakfast Programs

Schools use creative measures to serve breakfast to more students, By Yvonne Wenger, August 27, 2015, Baltimore Sun: “Waving her hands above her head, Kelly Leschefsky shouted over the morning rush at Perry Hall High School: ‘Come and grab your breakfast and take it to your classroom!’ A steady stream of students picked up cereal, cartons of orange juice, cinnamon rolls, bottles of milk and Pop-Tarts before the morning bell, entered their ID numbers on a keypad and headed to class. Some won’t actually pay, but that’s not apparent at the checkout line. The ‘Grab n’ Go’ carts at Perry Hall and elsewhere — at which the ID payment system keeps students from seeing whether their peers are buying the food or getting it free — are among several efforts statewide to ensure that more low-income children eat breakfast…”

Homeless Military Veterans

Service members discharged for misconduct have much higher rates of homelessness, study says, By Alan Zarembo, August 26, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “Veterans whose behavior got them kicked out of the military have dramatically higher rates of homelessness than those who left under normal circumstances, according to a new study by researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Among VA patients who served in Iraq or Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011, 5.6% were discharged for misconduct. Yet these patients accounted for 28.1% of veterans who had been homeless within their first year out of the military, the analysis found. The type of misconduct that resulted in discharge typically involved drug or alcohol use…”

Auto Insurance Premiums and Low-income Drivers

Some states take aim at ‘discriminatory’ auto insurance pricing, By Sarah Breitenbach, August 28, 2015, Stateline: “Be a safe driver. Don’t buy a flashy sports car. Pay the insurance premium on time. These are maxims many drivers follow to keep their auto insurance costs in check. But they may not be enough for many low-income drivers, who consumer advocates say are routinely priced out of insurance coverage because they are judged not just by their driving records, but by their credit scores, occupation, education level or other factors. It’s a discriminatory practice by insurance companies that disproportionately increases premium payments for low-income drivers, said J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner and director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). And some states are trying to stop it…”

Emergency Responders and the Homeless

San Francisco firefighters become unintended safety net for the homeless, By Sarah Maslin Nir, August 26, 2015, New York Times: “When the emergency bell sounds at Fire Station 1 here, firefighters pull on boots and backpacks, swing into Engine 1 and hurtle out the door in almost a single motion, a blast of red lights and caterwauling sirens. More often than not, there is no fire. Instead, the calls that ring in this and nearby fire stations tend to go like this: Male, apparently homeless, sprawled unconscious on a train platform. Male, prone on a street corner pushing a needle into his arm. In a measure of just how much homelessness has become an all-encompassing problem here, this city has the busiest fire engine in America — yet just over 1.5 percent of its runs last year involved fires…”

Court Fines and Debt

After Ferguson, states struggle to crack down on court debt, By Sophie Quinton, August 26, 2015, Stateline: “Say you’re caught driving 10 miles an hour over the posted speed limit in California. The state’s base fine for that offense is $35. But then the state adds an additional $40. The county adds $28. There’s an $8 fee to fund emergency medical services, a $20 fee to fund DNA testing, a $40 court operations fee and more. In total, that relatively minor moving violation just cost you $238.00. For years, state and local governments have attached additional fees and costs to everything from speeding tickets to parole supervision. The extra assessments are supposed to pay for court operations and associated justice system programs, such as DNA testing. According to a growing body of research, however, they also can trap poor people in debt, and corrupt law enforcement and the courts…”

Lead Poisoning Settlements

How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks, By Terrence McCoy, August 25, 2015, Washington Post: “The letter arrived in April, a mishmash of strange numbers and words. This at first did not alarm Rose. Most letters are that way for her — frustrating puzzles she can’t solve. Rose, who can scarcely read or write, calls herself a ‘lead kid.’ Her childhood home, where lead paint chips blanketed her bedsheets like snowflakes, ‘affected me really bad,’ she says. ‘In everything I do.’  She says she can’t work a professional job. She can’t live alone. And, she says, she surely couldn’t understand this letter. So on that April day, the 20-year-old says, she asked her mom to give it a look. Her mother glanced at the words, then back at her daughter. ‘What does this mean all of your payments were sold to a third party?’ her mother recalls saying…”

State Jobless Benefit Requirements

  • N.C. House OKs tougher requirement for jobless benefits, By Richard Craver, August 19, 2015, Winston-Salem Journal: “The N.C. House approved changes Thursday to the state’s unemployment insurance benefits law that raise the number of required weekly job search contacts from two to five. Senate Bill 15, approved 83-27 on third vote, goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature. The changes would take effect Jan. 1.  The bill requires that people who receive unemployment benefits keep a record of their contacts, which can include online applications, and provide it to N.C. Division of Employment Security officials upon request…”
  • Worker advocates: New rule is Scott Walker’s latest effort to make unemployment benefits harder to collect, By Pat Schneider, August 21, 2015, Capital Times: “Patrick Hickey says that an additional filing requirement to collect unemployment compensation will lead to late checks and lost benefits, and that imposing it is part of how Gov. Scott Walker is curtailing assistance to state residents. ‘This is part and parcel of the administration’s goal to stigmatize poverty and shame poor people by making the system so cumbersome and humiliating that people give up,’ said Hickey, a member of the Workers’ Rights Center in Madison. The new rule will require workers making weekly unemployment benefits claims by phone to begin faxing or mailing in a log of their weekly job search efforts, according to a notice on the state Department of Workforce Development web site…”

Homeless College Students

How to help the students with no homes?, By Kelly Field, August 24, 2015, Chronicle of Higher Education: “The scars on Christine Banjo’s arms are still there — faint marks from the bed bugs that bit her when her family was living in a motel room during her high-school years. ‘Battle wounds,’ she calls them: a faded but constant reminder that the college junior has been chronically homeless since she was 7. During the school year, Ms. Banjo, who is 20, lives in the dorms at Norfolk State University. But on summer vacation and during other breaks, she has no set place to go. There’s no room for her in the rooming house where her parents live, so she crashes with friends or sublets space in a cramped apartment. Most days, her only meal is the sandwich and fries she gets during her shift at McDonald’s. She returns there on her days off just to have something to eat…”

Child Poverty and Opportunity – Buffalo, NY

Escaping poverty easier for children in Erie County than elsewhere, but girls face ‘opportunity gap’, By Charity Vogel, August 8, 2015, Buffalo News: “Children growing up poor in Erie County have a better chance to earn a higher income as adults than those in most other urban counties across the nation, according to a Harvard University study. In addition, children who move to Erie County improve their chances of escaping poverty, and they might someday earn paychecks that are thousands of dollars higher than those who remain in places like Baltimore, Chicago and Charlotte, N.C., the researchers found. In essence, the longer a child lives in Erie County, the better the odds the child will earn more as a young adult…”

Community Scholarship – Michigan

Report: How one poor, rural Michigan town is sending ‘all its kids to college’, By Brian McVicar, August 19, 2015, Grand Rapids Press: “Baldwin, a small community in rural Lake County, is making national headlines after The Atlantic took an in-depth look at a community scholarship that aims to send every high school graduate, many of whom are low-income, to college. The piece tells the story of the Baldwin Promise, which provides up to $5,000 per-year for students to attend college, and the big impact the fund is having not only on college access, but on changing the community’s perception of higher education…”

Medicaid Expansion – Arkansas, Pennsylvania

  • Arkansas governor wants to keep Medicaid expansion, but with changes, By Abby Goodnough, August 19, 2015, New York Times: “Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas on Wednesday told an advisory group weighing the future of the state’s alternative Medicaid expansion that he favored keeping it — but only if the federal government allowed changes that seemed intended to appeal to conservative legislators who continue to oppose the program. Mr. Hutchinson, a Republican who took office in January, created the advisory group to recommend whether to change or replace the state’s ‘private option’ version of Medicaid expansion. The program’s fate will ultimately be decided by the Republican-controlled legislature, which is likely to meet in a special session this year to vote on it…”
  • Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion simplifies enrollment, By Adam Smeltz, August 20, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Low-income families who might have waited months for medical assistance last winter are enrolling within weeks under Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion, sailing through simplified applications that help them see doctors faster. ‘People are able to get the care and treatment they need much sooner. Folks are able to get preventive care much sooner,’ said Antoinette Kraus, state director at the nonprofit Pennsylvania Health Access Network, which urged policymakers to broaden traditional Medicaid. Still, critics remain cautious whether the expanded program could overburden the state budget…”

Poor Neighborhoods and Sanitation Service – Los Angeles, CA

Many poorer areas of L.A. get less trash service, analysis shows, By Ben Poston and Peter Jamison, August 14, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “On an overcast May morning, city workers picked up abandoned tires, charred furniture and soiled clothes from an alley in South Los Angeles. Neighbors said it was the first time they had seen a city sanitation crew visit the alley off East 108th Street in more than a year. One resident said nails punctured all four tires on her sedan after she drove through. Another paid a contractor to clear the entrance of a blocked driveway. Their complaints point to a broader problem with what many consider to be a basic government service. Since 2010, sanitation crews failed to respond to more than 20% of Los Angeles residents’ requests to remove illegal refuse from sidewalks and alleyways, a Times analysis has found…”

Driver’s License Suspensions – Milwaukee, WI

Ticket to nowhere: The hidden cost of driver’s license suspensions, By Vivian Wang, August 15, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Just after midnight in May 2014, April Williams loaded groceries into her car at Woodman’s Food Market in Menomonee Falls and prepared to drive home. Before she even left the parking lot, a police officer pulled her over and wrote two tickets: one for a broken taillight, one for driving without insurance. She couldn’t pay the tickets — she had filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and was unemployed — but didn’t think much of it. In the weeks ahead, the single mother kept driving, keeping appointments for her children and meeting her case manager at a W-2 agency for help with her job search. In September she was pulled over again, this time for expired plates. She also got a ticket for a violation she never expected: operating while suspended…”