American Community Survey

  • Poverty rates up in about half of Michigan’s communities, By Brian McVicar, December 7, 2017, “Michigan’s economic picture has brightened in recent years, as the unemployment rate dropped and fewer residents found themselves living under the poverty line. But census data released today show residents throughout the state are still struggling…”
  • Three things the latest census data tells us about the upper Midwest, By MaryJo  Webster, December 7, 2017, Star Tribune: “Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released data from five years’ worth of American Community Survey responses, shedding fresh light on demographic, economic and housing-related trends in counties and other small geographic areas…”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Series on Childhood Trauma

  • Impact of childhood trauma reaches rural Wisconsin, By John Schmid and Andrew Mollica, November 30, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Jodi Williams has just returned from the Marquette County jail, where she met an unemployed 27-year-old man who had been busted after jumping bail on charges of battery, property damage and disorderly conduct. He and his girlfriend used heroin until two years ago when their child was born. Instead of cleaning up, he switched to alcohol, which angered his girlfriend, who left with their child. Now, he’s dangerously depressed, locked up and dealing with his first sustained sobriety since he was 13.  ‘These people are in constant survival mode,’ Williams says of the distressed couple and so many others like them in the vast impoverished regions of the nation’s rural heartland. Williams is one of Marquette County’s few mental health and substance abuse case workers…”
  • Wisconsin childhood trauma data explodes myth of ‘not in my small town’, By John Schmid, December 4, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Traffic on Main St. is lazy as Kyle Pucek strolls past tidy homes with wide front porches. ‘I lost a lot of friends in the last couple years,’ Pucek, 41, says matter of factly. He counts 10.  A car rolls past and a woman waves at Pucek. The two shout greetings.  ‘That’s Kirsten,’ Pucek volunteers almost offhandedly, ‘an ex-heroin addict who’s also in recovery.’ Pucek grew up with her, and with her fiance, who died of a heroin overdose in 2009. Contacted later, Kirsten Moore added that her teenage son became attached to her late fiance’s brother — and then the brother died from a heroin overdose, too, less than two years later. Of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, Rock County falls into the highest tier of overdose deaths, hospitalizations and emergency room visits linked to opioids and heroin, as ranked by state health authorities…”

Basic Income Program – Ontario, CA

Canadian province experiments with ‘basic income’ payments to low-income people, By Rob Gillies (AP), November 29, 2017, Portland Press Herald: “Former security guard Tim Button considers how a sudden increase in his income from an unusual social experiment has changed his life in this Canadian industrial city along the shore of Lake Ontario. Sipping coffee in a Tim Horton’s doughnut shop, Button says he has been unable to work because of a fall from a roof, and the financial boost from Ontario Province’s new ‘basic income’ program has enabled him to make plans to visit distant family for Christmas for the first time in years. It has also prompted him to eat healthier, schedule a long-postponed trip to the dentist and mull taking a course to help him get back to work…”

Child Support and Income Withholding

Gig economy gives child support scofflaws a place to hide, By Jen Fifield, December 1, 2017, Stateline: “The rise of the gig economy and a broad shift to contract work is making it easier for people to evade paying child support, causing headaches for parents and for state officials charged with tracking down the money. About 70 percent of child support payments are collected by withholding income from paychecks. It’s possible to capture the wages of an Uber driver, Airbnb renter or a contractor — but only if state officials know that a person owing child support is earning wages that can be garnished, and only if the employer cooperates…”

Minimum Wage – Chicago, IL

Chicago raised its minimum wage two years ago, but some still earn less. Here’s why., By Nereida Moreno and Greg Trotter, December 1, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Maria Leon, a single mother of three and longtime Gage Park resident, says she worked for years in two Chicago restaurants for less than the city’s minimum wage. Last year, she sued the restaurants, which have the same owner, alleging they were violating city, state and federal wage laws. The two sides reached a settlement, but Leon believes it’s important to speak up on the matter…”

State Licensing and Employment

  • When unpaid student loan bills mean you can no longer work, By Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Stacy Cowley and Natalie Kitroeff, November 18, 2017, New York Times: “Fall behind on your student loan payments, lose your job. Few people realize that the loans they take out to pay for their education could eventually derail their careers. But in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work. As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans…”
  • The disappearing right to earn a living, By Conor Friedersdorf, November 17, 2017, The Atlantic: “In most states, a person who desires to install home-entertainment systems for a living, or as a part-time gig for extra cash, faces relatively few barriers to entry. This is work teenagers routinely do for grandparents after they make a technology purchase. But in Connecticut, a home-entertainment installer is required to obtain a license from the state before serving customers. It costs applicants $185. To qualify, they must have a 12th-grade education, complete a test, and accumulate one year of apprenticeship experience in the field. A typical aspirant can expect the licensing process to delay them 575 days…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • LePage says he’ll block voter-approved Medicaid expansion unless legislators fund it, By Scott Thistle, November 8, 2017, Portland Press Herald: “Just hours after a Medicaid expansion was endorsed by nearly 60 percent of Maine voters, Gov. Paul LePage and his Republican allies vowed to delay, if not derail, the citizen-initiated law that would provide health care to as many as 70,000 low-income residents of the state…”
  • Election results invigorate Medicaid expansion hopes, By Abby Goodnough and Margot Sanger-Katz, November 8, 2017, New York Times: “The election results in Maine and Virginia have energized supporters of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in several holdout states. After months of battling Republican efforts to repeal the law, they now see political consensus shifting in their direction…”
  • Medicaid expansion takes a bite out of medical debt, By Alex Smith, November 10, 2017, National Public Radio: “As the administration and Republicans in Congress look to scale back Medicaid, many voters and state lawmakers across the country are moving to make it bigger. On Tuesday, Maine voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Advocates are looking to follow suit with ballot measures in Utah, Missouri and Idaho in 2018…”

City Minimum Wages

  • Minnesota Chamber of Commerce sues Minneapolis over $15 minimum wage, By Emma Nelson, November 10, 2017, Star Tribune: “The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is taking the city of Minneapolis to court over the $15 minimum wage, saying the ordinance conflicts with existing state law…”
  • San Diego has fined businesses $60,000 over minimum wage violations, By David Garrick, November 10, 2017, San Diego Union-Tribune: “Investigators enforcing San Diego’s minimum wage law have handled more than 500 complaints against 70 businesses and levied nearly $60,000 in fines since the law took effect last year. City officials say those numbers will increase as outreach efforts make more people aware that San Diego’s hourly minimum wage of $11.50 is higher than the state minimum of $10 for small businesses and $10.50 for large ones…”

October 2017 US Unemployment Rate

  • U.S. jobs growth reaches 261,000 as economy rebounds from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, By Danielle Paquette, November 3, 2017, Washington Post: “The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October as the country rebounded from hurricanes Harvey and Irma as expected, and the jobless rate ticked down to 4.1 percent — the lowest level since 2000. The pace of hiring in October showed that the economy was recovering from the storms, Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found. But year-over-year wage growth sank to 2.4 percent…”
  • U.S. adds 261,000 jobs in October, and a revision restores job creation streak, By Bill Chappell, November 3, 2017, National Public Radio: “The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate fell by a small notch, from 4.2 percent to 4.1 percent. While job creation showed a rebound from hurricane season, the October result didn’t meet analysts’ expectations that the report would easily top 300,000 jobs…”

Unemployment Compensation Fund – Ohio

Should Ohio workers have their wages taxed to pay for state jobless benefits?, By Catherine Candisky, October 22, 2017, Columbus Dispatch: “A proposal to shore up Ohio’s unemployment-compensation fund would draw millions of dollars from workers because they would be required for the first time to contribute to jobless benefits. Under House Bill 382 introduced by state Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, new premiums charged to employees would begin in 2019, generating $125 million that year. That would equal 10 percent of the unemployment taxes paid by employers, who also face a rate increase…”

Payday Lending – Ohio

Curbs on payday loans a tough sell to Ohio lawmakers, By Jim Siegel, October 17, 2017, Columbus Dispatch: “When Ohio lawmakers pass a law that doesn’t come close to working as planned, they often fix it. Not so much with payday lending regulations approved nine years ago. Short-term lenders in Ohio today are charging the highest rates in the nation, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. A Republican lawmaker who wants to change that says he’s getting pushback from GOP colleagues who control the legislature…”

Income Inequality Among Retirees

For many older Americans, the rat race is over. But the inequality isn’t., By Peter Whoriskey, October 18, 2017, Washington Post: “While the rat race ends with retirement, one of its principal features extends well past a person’s last day of work. Income inequality in the United States spills over from the job into the last decades of life, according to a new survey that ranks the differences among U.S. retirees as among the most extreme in the 35-country comparison. The report being issued Wednesday by the OECD, or Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, reports levels of inequality in a survey of member countries…”

State Minimum Wages – Ohio, Florida

  • Ohio minimum wage increases to $8.30 in 2018, By Olivera Perkins, October 17, 2017, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Ohio’s hourly minimum wage will increase to $8.30 Jan. 1, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. Ohio’s minimum wage is currently $8.15. The $8.30 rate applies to non-tipped employees. The minimum wage for tipped workers will increase to $4.15 from $4.08…”
  • Florida minimum wage rises to $8.25 in 2018, By Marcia Heroux Pounds, October 17, 2017, Sun Sentinel: “Florida’s minimum wages will rise 15 cents to $8.25 an hour on Jan. 1, an increase from $8.10 an hour this year. While higher, the state’s minimum is a far cry from the $15 an hour some labor groups and legislators have been seeking in recent years. At the same time, many South Florida employers and top retail employers already pay more than minimum wage to recruit the workers they need in a tighter labor market, economists say…”

Medicaid Enrollment

Report: Medicaid enrollments, costs begin to stabilize, By Christina A. Cassidy (AP), October 19, 2017, Washington Post: “States are seeing more stability in their Medicaid programs after experiencing a surge in enrollment and costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, suggesting that one of the major pillars of former President Barack Obama’s health overhaul may be nearing its peak. At the same time, they are experiencing a high level of uncertainty as Republicans in Congress continue to advocate for a major overhaul of a program that provides health insurance to tens of millions of lower-income and disabled Americans…”

Job Training Initiatives

Google to give $1 billion to nonprofits and help Americans get jobs in the new economy, By Jessica Guynn, October 12, 2017, USA Today: “Google will invest $1 billion over the next five years in nonprofit organizations helping people adjust to the changing nature of work, the largest philanthropic pledge to date from the Internet giant.  The announcement of the national digital skills initiative, made by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in Pittsburgh, Pa. Thursday, is a tacit acknowledgment from one of the world’s most valuable companies that it bears some responsibility for rapid advances in technology that are radically reshaping industries and eliminating jobs in the U.S. and around the world…”

September 2017 US Unemployment Rate

  • The monthly jobs numbers haven’t gone down in 7 years. Until now., By Paul Davidson, October 6, 2017, USA Today: “The U.S. lost jobs for the first time in seven years last month after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey drove down employment. But wages grew, unemployment fell to a new 16-year low and there were other reassuring signs that September’s weak showing was a blip…”
  • U.S. lost 33,000 jobs amid last month’s hurricanes, By Patricia Cohen, October 6, 2017, New York Times: “The Labor Department released its official hiring and unemployment figures for September on Friday morning, providing the latest snapshot of the American economy…”

Payday Lending

Payday lending faces tough new restrictions by consumer agency, By Stacy Cowley, October 5, 2017, New York Times: “A federal agency on Thursday imposed tough new restrictions on so-called payday lending, dealing a potentially crushing blow to an industry that churns out billions of dollars a year in high-interest loans to working-class and poor Americans.  The rules announced by the agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are likely to sharply curtail the use of payday loans, which critics say prey on the vulnerable through their huge fees…”

Survey of Consumer Finances

  • Minorities and Americans without college degrees showed greatest gains in wealth since 2013, new data shows, By Heather Long and Tracy Jan, September 27, 2017, Washington Post: “Americans who were left behind as the country pulled out of the Great Recession — African Americans, Hispanics and people without college degrees — saw large gains in net worth over the past three years, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. But the improvements didn’t narrow the inequality gap: The share of U.S. income held by the top 1 percent of households reached 24 percent in 2016, a record high, and the median net worth of white households, at $171,000, was nearly 10 times larger than for black households…”
  • US middle class gets richer, but wealthy do even better, Associated Press, September 27, 2017, New York Times: “Most American families grew richer between 2013 and 2016, but the wealthiest households pulled even further ahead, worsening the nation’s massive disparities in wealth and income. The median net worth of all American families rose 16 percent last year from 2013 to $97,300, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday. The median is the point where half of families fall below and half above. That’s the first gain for middle class households since the recession upended the economy nearly a decade ago…”