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…”

Cliff Effect of Public Assistance Programs

$15 minimum wage could squeeze workers on public assistance, By Katie Johnson, December 9, 2016, Boston Globe: “If it succeeds, a campaign to raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $15 an hour could put more money in the pockets of low-income workers and create a path to self-sufficiency. But for some families, the boost in pay could mean a drop of hundreds of dollars a month in government benefits.  Food stamps, child care vouchers, and rent subsidies could be cut before families can afford to cover those expenses on their own, leaving some households, particularly single parents with young children, worse off despite a bigger paycheck — a phenomenon known as the ‘cliff effect…””

November 2016 US Unemployment Rate

U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November; unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent, By Ana Swanson, December 2, 2016, Washington Post: “The U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, a level not seen since August 2007, according to government data released Friday morning. The first employment report since voters went to the polls last month shows an economy in strong shape as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office…”

Discounted Transit Fares

Advocates for New York’s working poor push for discounted transit fares, By Emma G. Fitzsimmons, November 11, 2016, New York Times: “At a time when New York City can seem unbearably expensive, advocates for the poor are targeting a rising cost that many people struggle to afford: a MetroCard.  And with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority poised to approve its latest fare increase in January, they are pressing Mayor Bill de Blasio to finance a program that would offer half-price subway and bus fares to New Yorkers living in poverty…”

Older Workers and Low-wage Jobs

The new low-wage reality for older Americans, By Aimee Picchi, November 8, 2016, CBS News: “Thanks to economic instability and an eroding pension system, Americans are working longer than ever. But it turns out there’s a twist in how they’re working: New research shows workers older than 55 increasingly hold low-wage jobs.  The findings may add to the anxiety that haunts many workers about how — or if — they’ll have the financial resources to retire. In September, slightly more than 27 percent of full-time workers over 55 years old held low-wage jobs, compared with 19 percent of younger workers, according to Teresa Ghilarducci, professor of economics at The New School for Social Research…”

State Minimum Wages

  • Minimum wage boosts: Did low-income workers win?, By Amanda Hoover, November 9, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Workers in several more states will receive a pay raise thanks to a handful of successful ballot measures seeking to raise the minimum wage. Voters in four states chose to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour or higher by 2020, joining a growing number of states and cities that have announced wage hikes in the past few years as a tactic to boost the economy and close the growing income gap. As the slogan ‘Fight for $15’ has gained ground and shed light on the millions of people making minimum wage rates that are frequently not enough to support a family, more advocates are stepping forward to lead their own movements…”
  • Four states ok minimum wage hikes to at least $12, By Kevin McCoy, November 9, 2016, USA Today: “The lowest-paid hourly workers in four states won a boost in their minimum wage to at least $12-an-hour in Tuesday’s election.  Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington approved increases in their states’ respective hourly pay rates to at least $12 by 2020, according to late election results compiled by the Associated Press and Ballotpedia, a non-partisan online encyclopedia of elections and politics…”

October 2016 US Unemployment Rate

Final jobs report before election shows promising wage growth, By Don Lee, November 4, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “The last monthly jobs report before Tuesday’s presidential election offered some encouraging news for workers: Job growth remains steady and pay is rising at a faster rate.  Employers in October added 161,000 jobs, a little less than analysts’ average forecast but still a solid pace consistent with a healthy labor market. That’s more than enough to absorb new entrants to the workforce and keep the jobless rate from rising…”

State Minimum Wages

4 states will vote on raising minimum wage, By Jeanne Sahadi, November 1, 2016, CNN Money: “On November 8, voters in four states — Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington — will vote on ballot initiatives calling for a higher minimum wage. None are calling for $15 an hour, the Holy Grail of many minimum wage campaigns these days. But the four initiatives are aiming to raise their state’s base hourly pay by between 43% and 60%. The increases would be phased in gradually over a few years, and recent polls show a slim majority of support for the wage hikes…”