State and Local Minimum Wages – Iowa

GOP’s minimum wage rollback headed to Branstad’s desk, By William Petroski, March 27, 2017, Des Moines Register: “The Iowa Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that freezes the state’s minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, although Democrats angrily denounced the bill, accusing Republicans of failing to support poor Iowans. House File 295 rolls back minimum wage increases already approved in four counties, including Polk, Johnson, Linn and Wapello. In addition, Lee County supervisors have been in the process of approving a minimum wage hike…”

Ex-Offenders and Occupational Licenses

To help ex-offenders get jobs, some states reconsider licenses, By Sophie Quinton, March 8, 2017, Stateline: “Robert Lewis didn’t think it would be hard to get a job selling insurance. He was a car salesman for decades and sold insurance for a while after graduating from college. But in Lewis’ home state of Illinois, felons can’t get a license to sell insurance. And in 1985, Lewis was arrested for felony theft.  Lewis says he long ago kicked the drug habit that contributed to his arrest, and these days the 62-year-old can often be found running around after his grandkids.  ‘I was a whole other person back then,’ Lewis said of his Reagan-era brush with the law. But the criminal record derailed his recent job application…”

February 2017 US Unemployment Rate

  • U.S. added 235,000 jobs in February; unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent, By Ana Swanson, March 10, 2017, Washington Post: “The U.S. economy added a healthy 235,000 jobs in February, according to government data released Friday morning, surpassing economists’ expectations and likely clearing the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent, compared with 4.8 percent in January, and wages rose by 6 cents to $26.09 in February, after a 5-cent increase the month before…”
  • U.S. gains a healthy 235,000 jobs in February; unemployment rate falls to 4.7%, By Don Lee, March 10, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “Warm weather and rising business optimism helped the U.S. economy to create another burst of job growth last month, giving President Trump an early confidence boost and all but assuring that the Federal Reserve will nudge up interest rates next week.  Employers added 235,000 jobs in February, about as many as in January and well above analysts’ expectations and the average monthly payroll growth for all of last year, the Labor Department said Friday…”

Minimum Wage – St. Louis, MO

Minimum wage hike in St. Louis would be blocked by bill passed by Missouri House, By Celeste Bott, March 9, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “When the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a minimum wage increase in St. Louis last week, Bettie Douglas thought she was getting a raise.  Douglas works at a McDonald’s in St. Louis, making $7.90 an hour — 20 cents above Missouri’s minimum wage of $7.70.  But citing concerns over an inconsistent patchwork of wage laws that could prove burdensome to businesses, Republican lawmakers promptly filed bills that would require all Missouri cities to stick to the statewide standard…”

State Minimum Wage – Pennsylvania

Pa. minimum wage hike a possibility, By Marc Levy (AP), February 20, 2017, York Dispatch: “Years of pressure by Pennsylvania Democrats could yield a state minimum wage increase this year, although it likely will require substantial concessions in the Republican-controlled Legislature.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing hiking the hourly minimum from $7.25 to $12. That would be the nation’s highest…”

Unemployment Benefit Programs – Missouri, Ohio

  • Missouri lawmakers vote to slash unemployment benefits, By Austin Huguelet, February 23, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The Missouri House on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to a plan that would cut the amount of time people can claim jobless benefits to one of the shortest periods in the country…”
  • Unemployment fraud still costing state millions, By Cornelius Frolik, February 21, 2017, Dayton Daily News: “Ohio has significantly reduced fraudulent overpayments to people collecting unemployment insurance since instituting measures designed to identify and recover money from benefit cheats…”

Retirement Savings for Low-Income Workers – California

Congress targets a California law that aims to give low-income workers retirement security, By Evan Halper, February 9, 2017, Los Angeles Times: ” An ambitious California law intended to help create retirement security for low-income workers is in the crosshairs of the Trump-era Congress, which is moving to block the state and others from launching programs to automatically enroll millions of people in IRA-type savings plans…”

The US Structurally Unemployed

The new face of American unemployment, By Jeanna Smialek and Patricia Laya, February 7, 2017, Bloomberg: “Even at so-called full employment, some 20 million Americans are left behind.  They’re looking for work, out of the labor force but unhappy about it, or report working part-time when they’d prefer more hours, according to data released last week. Their plight comes even as the U.S. flirts with what economists consider the maximum level of employment for the first time since before the recession, having added 15.8 million jobs since the start of 2010. While some of America’s jobless are simply between gigs, those persistently stuck out of work are called the structurally unemployed…”

January 2017 US Unemployment Rate

U.S. starts year with job surge, but pay gains are weak, By Patricia Cohen, February 3, 2017, New York Times: “Job growth was quick out of the gate in the new year, the government reported on Friday, as employers added a healthy 227,000 workers to their payrolls in January. But despite a surge of local minimum-wage increases in states across the country, wage growth was meager.  The official jobless rate rose slightly, to 4.8 percent, but for good cause: More people were lured back into the work force…”

Earned Income Tax Credit

  • Detroiters leave $80 million unclaimed for tax credit, By Susan Tompor, January 29, 2017, Detroit Free Press: “The Earned Income Tax Credit is one big bonus check for Michigan’s struggling workforce. The credit is a one-time shot of potentially thousands of dollars that can be used to pay bills, put money down on a used car or even, maybe, save a little something for a rainy day or retirement.  It’s sort of like those big profit-sharing checks for many autoworkers that are ranging from $5,000 at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to $9,000 on average at Ford.  But you must file a tax return to get that tax-credit cash. And plenty of people don’t file for one reason or another…”
  • Gov. Scott Walker to expand low-income tax credit he once cut, By Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, February 1, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker is reversing course on a key tax credit for the working poor, proposing to raise incomes for more than 130,000 state families by returning the more than $20 million a year he cut from the program in 2011.  The Republican governor will unveil the proposal at the Wauwatosa Rotary Club Wednesday as part of a broader package in his budget bill that aims to strengthen families and marriage. The measure marks the changing priorities for Walker as he shifts from the budget cuts of his first term to his current goal of trying to draw Wisconsinites into the work force…”

Earnings Gap by Education Level

Pay gap between college grads and everyone else at a record, By Christopher S. Rugaber (AP), January 12, 2017, Star Tribune: “Americans with no more than a high school diploma have fallen so far behind college graduates in their economic lives that the earnings gap between college grads and everyone else has reached its widest point on record.  The growing disparity has become a source of frustration for millions of Americans worried that they — and their children — are losing economic ground…”

Minimum Wage

  • What will a higher minimum wage do? Two new studies have different ideas, By Natalie Kitroeff, January 11, 2107, Los Angeles Times: “The federal government set its first minimum wage, at 25 cents an hour, in 1938. Since then, liberals have cheered attempts to raise the minimum as blows against worker exploitation, while businesses lament that the hikes will kill jobs.  But nearly 80 years later, economists still aren’t sure how a higher minimum wage actually affects companies and their customers…”
  • Higher minimum wage may have losers, By Noam Scheiber, January 10, 2017, New York Times: “A growing number of economists have found that many cities and states have considerable room to raise the minimum wage before employers meaningfully cut back on hiring.  But that conclusion may gloss over some significant responses to minimum-wage increases by individual employers, according to two new studies. And those reactions may, in turn, raise questions about the effectiveness of the minimum wage in helping certain workers…”

Low-Income Tax Refunds

IRS to delay tax refunds for millions of low-income families, January 11, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “The IRS is delaying tax refunds for more than 40 million low-income families this year as the agency steps up efforts to fight identity theft and fraud.  The delays will affect families claiming the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. These tax breaks are geared to benefit the working poor, and many families claim both…”

Child Care Subsidies – California

For some workers, pay raise comes with loss of cheap child care, By Natalie Kitroeff, January 6, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “When the minimum wage in California rose to $10.50 an hour Jan. 1, more than a million people got a raise. But for an untold number of families across the state, that pay bump could price them out of child care.  This year, for the first time, two parents working full time at minimum wage jobs, with one child, will be considered too well off to qualify for state subsidies for day care and preschool. It’s been 10 years since the state set the threshold for who is poor enough to get the benefit, which is pegged to 2005 income levels…”

December 2016 US Unemployment Rate

U.S. economy creates a modest 156,000 jobs in December, By Don Lee, January 6, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “Job growth slowed at the end of last year while the unemployment rate ticked higher — signs that the tight labor market is resulting in diminished hiring even as it is pushing wages higher. The U.S. economy added 156,000 net new jobs last month, down from an upwardly revised 204,000 created in November, the Labor Department said Friday…”

State Minimum Wage Increases

A higher minimum wage in 2017, By Karl Russell, January 5, 2017, New York Times: “With the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour unchanged since 2009, many states have taken matters into their own hands and raised the statewide minimum wage. While a higher floor for pay is a powerful tool for improving the lot of the least-skilled workers, some economists worry it could result in slower job creation or cuts as employers confront higher labor costs…”

Minimum Wage Increases

Minimum wage going up in 21 states, 22 cities, By Jeanne Sahadi, December 19, 2016, CNNMoney: “Come the new year, millions of the lowest-wage workers across the country will get a raise.  Some of those raises will be very minor — a cost of living adjustment amounting to an extra nickel or dime an hour. But in several places the jump will be between $1 and $2 an hour…”

Unemployment System – Ohio

No fix this year for troubled unemployment system, By Jessie Balmert, December 7, 2016, Cincinnati Enquirer: “Ohio lawmakers won’t overhaul the state’s troubled unemployment system – at least not until April, they say.  After days of furious negotiating, lawmakers, business and union leaders came up short of a comprehensive fix that would please both the people who receive unemployment benefits and the employers who pay for them. Instead, lawmakers said Tuesday, they plan to freeze unemployment benefits for 2018 and 2019. Employers currently pay taxes on their employees’ annual wages up to $9,000, and lawmakers plan to increase that to $9,500. The national average is $13,407…”

Child Care Subsidies

Child care subsidies, vital for many workers, are dwindling, By Sophie Quinton, December 9, 2016, Stateline: “Before she heads to her shift at a nursing home in New Haven, Connecticut, every morning, nursing assistant Elisha LaRose drops her 4-year-old son off at a day care center. She’s grateful he’ll be in a safe, educational environment all day. LaRose, 30, is a single mother and could never afford to send her son to day care without a child care subsidy. The subsidy, a mix of federal and state money (combined with a separate Connecticut program), cuts her weekly day care costs to $48. Without the help, she said, she’d probably have to leave her son with an unlicensed baby sitter.  In many states, subsidies may be about to get scarcer…”