Low-Income Employment

After years of stagnation, low-income jobs join the recovery, By Story Hinckley, August 4, 2017, Christian Science Monitor: “What do waitresses in California, security guards in Tennessee, and hairstylists in Virginia have in common? All of these employees are starting to get bigger paychecks, economists say. The Great Recession of 2008 triggered a double-digit spike in the US unemployment rate, which led to lower wages as employers were not obligated to offer competitive salaries. The national unemployment rate has decreased every year since 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), causing most paychecks to rise. Low-income workers, however, missed out…”

The Middle Class

The middle class is poorer today than it was in 1989, By Matt O’Brien, October 1, 2014, Washington Post: The fundamentals of the economy are, well, okay. It’s been slow and steady, but the recovery has chugged along enough to get us back to something close to normal. The economy has surpassed its pre-crisis peak, unemployment is at a six-year low, and stocks have more than tripled from their 2009 low. It’s not the best of times, but it’s certainly not the worst — which was a very real possibility after Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy threatened to send us into a second Great Depression…”

Household Wealth

The typical household, now worth a third less, By Anna Bernasek, July 27, 2014, New York Times: “Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too. The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially. The Russell Sage study also examined net worth. . .”

Part-Time Work

  • A part-timer boom, or blip? By Robert Samuelson, July 16, 2014, Washington Post: “There may be a dark lining to the sunny June employment report, which recorded an increase of 288,000 payroll jobs for the month. Most — or all — of the increase may have been part-time jobs. If that’s a trend, it could signal a weaker economy. It could also vindicate critics of the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or Obamacare). They have argued that the added costs of providing health insurance for full-time workers would cause many firms to emphasize part-time employment. Is it a trend? Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mortimer Zuckerman — real estate developer and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report — says yes. Some data seem convincing. In June, part-time jobs (defined as less than 35 hours a week) increased by 1,115,000, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); full-time jobs fell by 708,000. . .”
  • Yes, some people are working part-time. No, that’s not a disaster for the recovery. By Jared Bernstein, July 18, 2014, Washington Post: “By many indicators, the recent job market is clearly improving. It still has a long way to go, but the pace of employment growth is up and unemployment has fallen sharply in recent months. Importantly, the recent decline in the jobless rate has been for the right reason: people getting jobs as opposed to people leaving the labor market (since only jobseekers are counted as unemployed, if they give up the job search, the unemployment rate is artificially lowered). Still, those in the business of disparaging the ‘Obama recovery’ latched onto the spike in part-time work in the last jobs report as an indicator that the silver lining has a dark cloud around it. Based on the rise in part-time jobs in June, a Wall Street Journal opinion piece complained. . .”
  • Part-Time Workers Deserve the Shift, Not the Shaft, By Megan McArdle, July 17, 2014, Bloomberg View: “The plight of low-wage retail workers has generated much talk in recent years. As I’ve written before, I don’t find problematic the existence of jobs that do not pay enough to support a family. Retail jobs have never paid well, because retail margins tend to be pretty slim. The problem is not that retail is a low-wage job, but that an increasing number of people can’t find any other sort of job. The natural response of many people is to say, well, these are the jobs we have now, so they should pay what factory jobs used to. Yet like the manufacturing jobs that went away, many of those low-wage retail jobs also face competition — from higher-productivity firms. . .”

US Wealth Gap

Study: Recession and recovery widen US wealth gap, By Christopher Rugaber, June 24, 2014, Associated Press: “The Great Recession and the slow recovery have sharply widened the gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, according to a study that underscores the unevenness of wealth gains since the recession ended. The richest 5 percent had 24 times the wealth of the median household in 2013 — up substantially from 16.5 times as much in 2007, according to a study by University of Michigan researchers. Substantial gains in the stock market have enabled richer Americans to regain much of their wealth. Stock prices had plunged by nearly half during the recession but have recovered all their losses and set new highs. And roughly 10 percent of households own 80 percent of stocks. . .”

Economic Recovery

U.S. economic recovery looks distant as growth stalls, By Binyamin Appelbaum, June 11, 2014, New York Times: “Recessions are always painful, but the Great Recession that ran from late 2007 to the middle of 2009 may have inflicted a new kind of pain: an era of slower growth. It has been five years since the official end of that severe economic downturn. The nation’s total annual output has moved substantially above the prerecession peak, but economic growth has averaged only about 2 percent a year, well below its historical average. Household incomes continue to stagnate, and millions of Americans still can’t find jobs. And a growing number of experts see evidence that the economy will never rebound completely. . .”