July 2017 US Unemployment Rate

  • U.S. job growth surges in July, By Ana Swanson, August 4, 2017, Washington Post: “The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July, according to government data released Friday morning, surpassing economists’ expectations and suggesting the economy continues to thrive after an extended streak of job gains in recent years…”
  • U.S. economy adds 209,000 jobs in July; unemployment dips to 4.3 percent, By Scott Neuman, National Public Radio: “The U.S. economy created an estimated 209,000 jobs in July, representing a modest slowdown from the previous month but coming in better than many economists had expected. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent from 4.4 percent…”

Prisoner Reentry

To reduce recidivism, states scrap barriers for ex-offenders, By Rebecca Beitsch, July 27, 2017, Stateline: “To ease prison crowding and rein in corrections spending, state legislatures are trying to help ex-offenders re-enter society with the goal of ensuring they don’t return to prison. People exiting prison often struggle to find work and housing, and many legislators say the law continues to punish them as they are hit with court debt and barred from entering certain professions and, in some places, from getting public assistance…”

States and Job Training

Why some states are making short-term training free, By Sophie Quinton, May 3, 2017, Stateline: “Community colleges are known for their associate degree programs. But these days, many community colleges award more certificates than degrees. Certificates typically take less than two years to complete and promise to prepare students for entry-level jobs in fields such as medical insurance coding or welding. Now Kentucky and Indiana have created scholarships that would make some certificates tuition-free. The new grants draw inspiration from the free college idea pushed by Democrats like former President Barack Obama and embraced by Oregon, Tennessee and New York. But they’re less focused on reducing soaring tuition prices and more focused on training students for jobs that are sitting open…”

Early Childhood Education

How child care enriches mothers, and especially the sons they raise, By Claire Cain Miller, April 20, 2017, New York Times: “As many American parents know, hiring care for young children during the workday is punishingly expensive, costing the typical family about a third of its income. Helping parents pay for that care would be expensive for society, too. Yet recent studies show that of any policy aimed to help struggling families, aid for high-quality care has the biggest economic payoff for parents and their children — and even their grandchildren. It has the biggest positive effect on women’s employment and pay. It’s especially helpful for low-income families, because it can propel generations of children toward increased earnings, better jobs, improved health, more education and decreased criminal activity as adults…”

Ex-Offenders and Employment

Matching ex-offenders with hard-to-fill health care jobs, By Sophie Quinton, April 19, 2017, Stateline: “Collie Thomas sat in the courtyard outside the Johns Hopkins Hospital and marveled at her luck. She works as an orderly in one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. She was promoted about a year ago. She just moved into a snug new row house. ‘I stayed 10 years in prison, and I worked hard in prison for like a dollar, dollar fifty — for so little,’ said Thomas, 51, her bedazzled pink smartphone glinting in the April sunshine. ‘So when you get these kinds of jobs here, you work your best.’  With unemployment falling and workers hard to find, a growing number of health care employers are following Johns Hopkins’ lead and giving people with criminal records a second chance — hiring them mainly into entry-level jobs in food service, janitorial services and housekeeping. Studies show that employees with records stay in their jobs longer and are no more likely to commit workplace crimes than hires without them…”

Prisoner Re-entry – Colorado

Homelessness, criminal histories create barriers for those seeking to re-enter Colorado society, By Amelia Arvesen, April 15, 2017, Denver Post: “On paper, Glenn Allan Tefft was sure he qualified for an open position at a Longmont, Colorado, printing plant even with his criminal background. But his spirits were low after he believed he was judged on his appearance during what he thought was a suspiciously brief interview. ‘People won’t even look at you,’ he said a week before the opportunity arose. ‘You can tell I’m homeless.’ Almost 39, a three-time felon who’s been to jail but not prison, Tefft is struggling to defy the odds also faced by 95 percent of the prison population that the Congressional Research Service expects will reintegrate back into the greater community at some point…”

Rural Employment

  • In search of rural jobs, states weigh strategy with checkered past, By Jen Fifield, March 30, 2017, Stateline: “In rural communities across the country, jobs are disappearing and people are moving away, driving a desperation that helped elect Donald Trump president. But as state lawmakers look for ways to bring life to these long-struggling areas, many are falling prey to a complex economic development approach, pushed hard by investment firms that stand to benefit, that has failed to live up to its promises…”
  • Disabled, or just desperate?, By Terrence McCoy, March 30, 2017, Washington Post: “The lobby at the pain-management clinic had become crowded with patients, so relatives had gone outside to their trucks to wait, and here, too, sat Desmond Spencer, smoking a 9 a.m. cigarette and watching the door. He tried stretching out his right leg, knowing these waits can take hours, and winced. He couldn’t sit easily for long, not anymore, and so he took a sip of soda and again thought about what he should do.  He hadn’t had a full-time job in a year. He was skipping meals to save money. He wore jeans torn open in the front and back. His body didn’t work like it once had. He limped in the days, and in the nights, his hands would swell and go numb, a reminder of years spent hammering nails. His right shoulder felt like it was starting to go, too…”

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…”

Welfare Reform – Wisconsin

Scott Walker: Parents should work 80 hours per month to get food stamps, By Molly Beck, January 24, 2017, Wisconsin State Journal: “Gov. Scott Walker wants parents who receive food stamps to work at least 80 hours per month to continue to receive full benefits.  Walker made the announcement Monday in appearances around the state promoting changes dubbed ‘Wisconsin Works for Everyone’ that he plans to make to the state’s welfare programs.  One component would require parents with school-age children living at home to work to continue to receive full benefits through the state’s food stamp program known as FoodShare…”

Child Support Enforcement

  • Not just a deadbeat dad, By Dwyer Gunn, July 12, 2016, Pacific Standard: “On a sunny Tuesday morning in February, Lewis Griffin walked into a meeting room in the Arapahoe County Human Services Building in Aurora, Colorado. Griffin, a barber and ex-convict who’s also the co-facilitator of a fatherhood class, is a tall black man with closely cropped silvering hair — on the day I met him, he was sharply dressed in grey jeans, a neatly pressed grey-striped button-down shirt, and sleek, modern glasses. Griffin has an open, friendly manner and a disarming sense of humor. When he introduced himself to me, he clasped both hands to his chest, inhaled sharply, and said with exaggerated anxiety, ‘I’m nervous!’  The men (and one woman) gathered in the meeting room that morning all had one thing in common: They were non-custodial parents who had fallen behind on their child support payments…”
  • Wisconsin’s grand child support experiment, By Dwyer Gunn, July 13, 2016, Pacific Standard: “In 1997, the state of Wisconsin decided to experiment with the way it handled child support payments made to welfare recipients. In previous years, under the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, recipients who also received child support payments from a non-custodial parent were required to relinquish the bulk of what they received in child support to the state — states only ‘passed through’ the first $50 of child support in a given month. The federal welfare-reform bill (formally known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) of the previous year gave states room to experiment with and set their own policies…”

Unemployment Benefits – Illinois

State: No unemployment benefits without posting resume, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, July 13, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “People filing for unemployment insurance in Illinois will no longer be able to receive benefits unless they post a resume to the state’s job search site.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced it is stepping up enforcement of an existing legal requirement that individuals actively seek employment to be eligible for unemployment benefits…”

Minimum Wage Increases

Low-paid workers are leading in wage gains, By Paul Davidson, July 5, 2016, USA Today: “Low-paid workers didn’t exactly declare their independence this past weekend but they did snag another round of minimum wage hikes as part of their years-long rebellion against languishing earnings.  An unusual flurry of minimum wage increases took effect Friday in Maryland and Oregon, as well as in 13 cities and counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and Louisville, Ky., according to the conservative Employment Policies Institute and liberal National Employment Law Project. The initiatives will boost minimum pay to as much as $13 to $14.82 an hour in parts of California…”

US Underemployment

Nearly half of U.S. workers consider themselves underemployed, report says, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, June 28, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “If you majored in physical education and find yourself working as a dog groomer, consider yourself a poster child of the underemployed. Nearly half of U.S. workers consider themselves underemployed, according to a survey of more than 960,000 people by PayScale, an online provider of salary information. Three-quarters of those who label themselves as such say they’re not working in a job that uses their education and training. One quarter say they are working part time but want full-time work…”

Jobs with Driver’s License Requirements

No driver’s license, no job, By Alana Semuels, June 15, 2016, The Atlantic: “Ask conservatives what the poor need to do to get out of poverty, and the answer usually involves something like, ‘Get a job.’ That was the crux of the anti-poverty plan Paul Ryan revealed last week to shrugs, and has been the gist of many anti-poverty efforts over the past two decades.  But for many people, there is one very specific—and often overlooked—reason why that’s not so easy: They don’t have a driver’s license.  Not all jobs require a driver’s license, particularly those that pay very low wages. But having one is a very common requirement for the sorts of job that can actually lift people out of poverty—those in construction, manufacturing, security, and unions jobs including electricians and plumbers, says Mark Kessenich, who runs WRTP Big Step, a Milwaukee center that trains low-income workers to enter jobs in construction and manufacturing that pay a starting wage of $15 and up…”

Low-Income Men in the Workforce

Fewer low-income men are working, By Tami Luhby, June 15, 2016, CNN Money: “Men have been disappearing from the workforce for decades.  But a closer look at the data reveals that lower-income men account for much of the change — and that reflects a big problem with the economy.  Only 69% of these men, ages 25 to 54, are employed, according to new research from the Brookings Institution. That figure was 80% in 1980…”

Welfare Reform and the Disconnected

The Disconnected, By Krissy Clark, June 3, 2016, Slate and Marketplace: “I met Laura Grennan on a cold morning this past winter in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In a gray sweatshirt, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, Grennan was pushing her daughters in a double stroller. Angel is her 2-year-old, and her 3-year old is named Isis—like the Egyptian goddess, Grennan is quick to explain. ‘I love Egyptian mythology,’ she says, ‘so I just picked the name out of a hat, and I thought it was beautiful—until, of course, all the news of the terrorist group came out.’ She sighs. ‘But we work around it.’  ‘Working around it’ is something Grennan, 30, has had to become very good at in her life. Grennan grew up in foster care. Moved around a lot. Dropped out of high school. By her mid-20s, she had found some degree of stability—gotten her GED, held a series of jobs she liked…”

Paid Family Leave – California

Brown signs California law boosting paid family-leave benefits, By Patrick McGreevy, April 11, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a bill expanding California’s pioneering family-leave law to help more low-income workers and provide better benefits. ‘It’s a real pleasure to be able to sign another bill that helps ordinary Californians, working men and women,’ Brown said.  The action comes 15 years after California became the first state in the nation to guarantee workers paid time off to care for a new child or ailing family member…”

Employment Gender Gap in Poor Neighborhoods

The striking power of poverty to turn young boys into jobless men, By Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham, January 29, 2016, Washington Post: “Men are more likely to work than women. This has been true in the United States for generations and for entrenched reasons that have to do with ‘family values’ and workplace policies. It’s true because the culture says women should care for their children and because paying for child care is expensive. And it’s true because of discrimination.  The durability of that pattern makes a recent finding by economists at Harvard and Stanford universities all the more puzzling: Among the poor, the opposite is now true. Girls who grow up in poor families are more likely than the boys who grow up with them to work as adults…”