Daily Digest - April 21: In Minimum Wage Fight, Localities May Have Maximum Impact

Apr 21, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Minimum Wage Debate Goes Local (San Francisco Chronicle)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt and Ken Jacobs consider why the minimum wage debate has such momentum at a local level. They see this as a return to states and cities being laboratories of policy innovation.

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Minimum Wage Debate Goes Local (San Francisco Chronicle)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt and Ken Jacobs consider why the minimum wage debate has such momentum at a local level. They see this as a return to states and cities being laboratories of policy innovation.

The Link Between One Website and Hate Crimes (Melissa Harris Perry)

In a discussion on domestic terror and hate, Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren suggests that the way we live, segregated by race and class, makes it even harder for Americans to embrace difference.

The Biggest Predictor of How Long You’ll Be Unemployed Is When You Lose Your Job (Five Thirty Eight)

Ben Casselman finds that the unemployment rate at the time when a worker loses her job is the strongest indicator of whether she will end up among the long-term unemployed.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal builds on this data to explain why the long-term unemployed aren't necessarily weak employees.

Student Debt Holds Back Many Would-Be Home Buyers (LA Times)

The share of first-time home buyers has dropped. Tim Logan ties that to the vast increase in student loans over the past decade, which hinders would-be buyers from getting mortgages.

How Payday Lenders Prey Upon the Poor — and the Courts Don’t Help (NYT)

Since AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which limited class action lawsuits, people trapped in cycles of predatory payday lending have even fewer routes out, writes Emily Bazelon.

Beyond the Laffer Curve — The Case for Confiscatory Taxation (Vox)

Matt Yglesias notes that many of our taxes aim at changing behavior, not increasing revenue. Perhaps higher taxes on inheritances or very big salaries could discourage the economic activity that promotes inequality.

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Daily Digest - April 18: Inequality Was Not an Accident

Apr 18, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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We Built This Country on Inequality (The Nation)

Mychal Denzel Smith writes that the U.S. economy was built on a foundation of inequality for women and racial minorities, and that we must fight racism and sexism if we hope to close the wealth gap.

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We Built This Country on Inequality (The Nation)

Mychal Denzel Smith writes that the U.S. economy was built on a foundation of inequality for women and racial minorities, and that we must fight racism and sexism if we hope to close the wealth gap.

Oklahoma Governor Signs Law Barring Cities From Raising Minimum Wage (AJAM)

The Oklahoma law also bars cities from requiring paid sick leave or vacation time, reports Amel Ahmed. This seems intended to preempt a push for a state-level minimum wage increase, as in California and Maryland.

Treat Wage Theft as a Criminal Offense (WaPo)

Catherine Rampell asks why the consequences for stealing thousands from workers' paychecks are so much less severe than the consequences of stealing from someone's home.

Obamacare Succeeded for One Simple Reason: It's Horrible to be Uninsured (Vox)

Sarah Kliff says the eight million sign-ups are proof that insured pundits didn't understand how desperate the uninsured and underinsured were to get health insurance.

Antitrust in the New Gilded Age (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich suggests that today's concentrated wealth resembles the Gilded Age, right down to the need to break up too-large corporations. He cites the pending Comcast-Time Warner merger as a troubling example.

New on Next New Deal

Not Just the Long-Term Unemployed: Those Unemployed Zero Weeks Are Struggling to Find Jobs

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal looks at the data on those who move from one employer directly to another, without any unemployment. When even those workers struggle on the job market, wage growth slows.

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Not Just the Long-Term Unemployed: Those Unemployed Zero Weeks Are Struggling to Find Jobs

Apr 17, 2014Mike Konczal

Leave aside for a moment the difficulty that the long-term unemployed, those who were unlucky and have been looking for a job for more than 52 weeks, have in finding a job. Even those who have been unemployed zero weeks are having trouble finding jobs in this economy. And this is important evidence against the idea that the labor market is doing better than people realize if you just ignore the long-term unemployed.

Here’s a data point that I’m particularly interested in: how often are employed people going straight to another job, rather than leaving their job and enduring a period of unemployment before finding new work?

Though most people think of the employed spending some time in unemployment before starting a new job (an idea that was central to the recent theory that quit rates predicted a healthy job market), a substantial number of people move directly from one job to another without ever counting as unemployed. Since our statistics (and most of the economic models) are set up to observe people who are looking for work but are unable or unwilling to accept a job, these steadily employed workers can go missing in the discussion. That’s a shame, because historically they comprise almost half of all those who accept a new job.

The Rortybomb blog has long been a fan of the job flows data, or the statistics that show who is moving between employment and unemployment and in and out of the labor force. However, the easiest way to access this data didn’t distinguish between those who stayed employed with a single employer and those who stayed employed but moved between different employers.

Luckily, someone pointed me in the direction of the Employer-to-Employer Flows in the U.S. Labor Market [1], compiled by the Federal Reserve, which breaks out those who move from one employer to another without being unemployed (described as “EE transitions” for the rest of this post). This data is current through the end of 2013.

If the economy is heating up significantly and the long-term unemployed aren’t capable of taking jobs, then the EE transition rate should be increasing. So how is it doing?

This is the percentage of the employed who are in EE transition (the results are the same for EE transition as a percentage of the labor force). As we can see, it declined during the crisis and hasn’t recovered even as of 2013.

Let’s also look at this from a different point of view: what percentage of those taking jobs are currently employed? If the economy was heating up and the unemployed or those out of the labor force couldn't take jobs, we would expect this to increase. Taking EE transitions as a percentage of all those who are transitioning into new jobs, we see the following:

New hires are increasingly coming from the ranks of the unemployed and those not in the labor force rather than the currently employed. Where the employed were 40 percent in the 1990s, and 35 percent in the pre-crisis 2000s, it's down to 30 percent now.

Why does this matter? First off, these quits also create a new job opening, which the unemployed can take. There’s a significant labor economics literature that argues that job-to-job transitions are a major driver of wage growth for workers (starting here and continuing to this day, h/t Arin Dube). If the number of people moving directly from one job to another is in decline, that’s a bad sign for wage growth, as well as inflation and monetary policy. This appears to be undertheorized and not discussed enough in academic or policy discussions.

But why is this happening? The American Time Use Survey hasn’t been able to tell me whether the employed are spending more or less time searching for other jobs since the recession started; the sample size is too small to make conclusive predictions about changes. If potential wage gains are a primary motivation of job-to-job transitions, then lack of wage growth or even inflation could be contributing to less churn in the economy.

When it comes down to it, the problems of those who aren’t working and want a job are similar to the problems of those who are working but want a new job. As Alan Krueger found in this chart in his recent paper (also see Ben Casselman's chart here), the rate of successful job searches is down not just for the long-term unemployed, but also for the short-term unemployed, when compared to 2007. It appears the same holds true for those with an unemployment duration of zero.

[1] The page indicates that it was last updated in 2004, or perhaps 2011. But the excel document has data through the end of 2013. Sneaky.

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Leave aside for a moment the difficulty that the long-term unemployed, those who were unlucky and have been looking for a job for more than 52 weeks, have in finding a job. Even those who have been unemployed zero weeks are having trouble finding jobs in this economy. And this is important evidence against the idea that the labor market is doing better than people realize if you just ignore the long-term unemployed.

Here’s a data point that I’m particularly interested in: how often are employed people going straight to another job, rather than leaving their job and enduring a period of unemployment before finding new work?

Though most people think of the employed spending some time in unemployment before starting a new job (an idea that was central to the recent theory that quit rates predicted a healthy job market), a substantial number of people move directly from one job to another without ever counting as unemployed. Since our statistics (and most of the economic models) are set up to observe people who are looking for work but are unable or unwilling to accept a job, these steadily employed workers can go missing in the discussion. That’s a shame, because historically they comprise almost half of all those who accept a new job.

The Rortybomb blog has long been a fan of the job flows data, or the statistics that show who is moving between employment and unemployment and in and out of the labor force. However, the easiest way to access this data didn’t distinguish between those who stayed employed with a single employer and those who stayed employed but moved between different employers.

Luckily, someone pointed me in the direction of the Employer-to-Employer Flows in the U.S. Labor Market [1], compiled by the Federal Reserve, which breaks out those who move from one employer to another without being unemployed (described as “EE transitions” for the rest of this post). This data is current through the end of 2013.

If the economy is heating up significantly and the long-term unemployed aren’t capable of taking jobs, then the EE transition rate should be increasing. So how is it doing?

This is the percentage of the employed who are in EE transition (the results are the same for EE transition as a percentage of the labor force). As we can see, it declined during the crisis and hasn’t recovered even as of 2013.

Let’s also look at this from a different point of view: what percentage of those taking jobs are currently employed? If the economy was heating up and the unemployed or those out of the labor force couldn't take jobs, we would expect this to increase. Taking EE transitions as a percentage of all those who are transitioning into new jobs, we see the following:

New hires are increasingly coming from the ranks of the unemployed and those not in the labor force rather than the currently employed. Where the employed were 40 percent in the 1990s, and 35 percent in the pre-crisis 2000s, it's down to 30 percent now.

Why does this matter? First off, these quits also create a new job opening, which the unemployed can take. There’s a significant labor economics literature that argues that job-to-job transitions are a major driver of wage growth for workers (starting here and continuing to this day, h/t Arin Dube). If the number of people moving directly from one job to another is in decline, that’s a bad sign for wage growth, as well as inflation and monetary policy. This appears to be undertheorized and not discussed enough in academic or policy discussions.

But why is this happening? The American Time Use Survey hasn’t been able to tell me whether the employed are spending more or less time searching for other jobs since the recession started; the sample size is too small to make conclusive predictions about changes. If potential wage gains are a primary motivation of job-to-job transitions, then lack of wage growth or even inflation could be contributing to less churn in the economy.

When it comes down to it, the problems of those who aren’t working and want a job are similar to the problems of those who are working but want a new job. As Alan Krueger found in this chart in his recent paper (also see Ben Casselman's chart here), the rate of successful job searches is down not just for the long-term unemployed, but also for the short-term unemployed, when compared to 2007. It appears the same holds true for those with an unemployment duration of zero.

[1] The page indicates that it was last updated in 2004, or perhaps 2011. But the excel document has data through the end of 2013. Sneaky.

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Daily Digest - April 16: The Ideas Generation

Apr 16, 2014Tim Price

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That '70s Show, Starring Ted Cruz (New Republic)

Despite conservatives' tendency to compare Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, today's economic challenges are the opposite of those the U.S. faced in the 1970s, writes Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal.

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That '70s Show, Starring Ted Cruz (New Republic)

Despite conservatives' tendency to compare Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, today's economic challenges are the opposite of those the U.S. faced in the 1970s, writes Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal.

When Tax Refunds Aren't Just a Bonus, But a Lifeline (ThinkProgress)

Twenty-eight million low-income families depend on the Earned Income Tax Credit to make ends meet, writes Bryce Covert, but not all poor parents qualify for it, and tax preparers' fees can hurt those who do.

In Many Cities, Rent Is Rising Out of Reach of Middle Class (NYT)

A new analysis finds 90 U.S. cities where the median rent excluding utilities is more than 30 percent of the median gross income, writes Shaila Dewan, and it's putting the squeeze on renters and the recovery.

The Sad, Slow Death of America's Retail Workforce (The Atlantic)

The retail sector's sales and jobs numbers are up, writes Derek Thompson, but as business becomes more efficient and moves online, the workforce is increasingly concentrated in low-paying superstore jobs.

3 big things to look for in Yellen's first monetary policy speech (WaPo)

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is likely to discuss labor market strength, inflation expectations, and the need for financial regulation in today's address to the Economic Club of New York, reports Ylan Q. Mui.

New on Next New Deal

Millennials Are Shifting the Public Debate with the Power of Their Ideas

Taylor Jo Isenberg, the Roosevelt Institute's Vice President of Networks, introduces the Campus Network's 2014 10 Ideas journals, collecting top student policy proposals on economic development, health care, education, equal justice, energy and the environment, and defense and diplomacy.

The Pay's the Thing: How America's CEOs Are Getting Rich Off Taxpayers

Roosevelt Institute Fellow and Director of Research Susan Holmberg explains why we must close the CEO performance pay tax loophole in order to curb the rise of income inequality in the U.S.

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Daily Digest - April 15: What Makes Taxes Worth It?

Apr 15, 2014Tim Price

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Read My Lips: More New Taxes! (New Republic)

Tax Day would be a time for celebration if there were a clearer connection between paying taxes and receiving the many valuable public services and benefits they fund, writes Jonathan Cohn.

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Read My Lips: More New Taxes! (New Republic)

Tax Day would be a time for celebration if there were a clearer connection between paying taxes and receiving the many valuable public services and benefits they fund, writes Jonathan Cohn.

TurboTax Maker Linked to 'Grassroots' Campaign Against Free, Simple Tax Filing (ProPublica)

Giving taxpayers the option to use pre-filled tax returns could save them money and time, but tax software developer Intuit is lobbying hard against the proposal, reports Liz Day. 

Chances of Getting Audited by IRS Lowest in Years (AP)

Deep budget cuts have put such a strain on IRS resources that the agency audited only 1 percent of individual returns last year, writes Stephen Ohlemacher, and that number will drop in 2014. 

C.E.O. Pay Goes Up, Up and Away! (NYT)

Despite efforts to restrain the growth of executive pay through increased transparency and regulation, median CEO compensation grew 9 percent in 2013, hitting $13.9 million, writes Joe Nocera.

The Single Mother, Child Poverty Myth (Demos)

Family composition in the U.S. is not much different from that of Northern Europe, writes Matt Bruenig, but the European countries have much more generous welfare systems to keep children out of poverty.

What the French E-mail Meme Reveals About America's Runaway Culture of Work (The Nation)

French workers are often mocked because they continue to fight for work-life balance, writes Michelle Chen, but American work culture's disregard for those boundaries is the real historical outlier.

How 250 UPS Workers Fired for a Wildcat Strike Won Back Their Jobs (In These Times)

An outcry from union members, activists, elected officials, and customers forced UPS to reverse its decision to fire hundreds of drivers at a Queens facility for protesting a co-worker's dismissal, reports Sarah Jaffe.

New on Next New Deal

What is Economic Growth Without Shared Prosperity? 

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist Joelle Gamble argues that economic policy should focus on improving life for all Americans, not just those at the very top.

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What Is Economic Growth Without Shared Prosperity?

Apr 14, 2014Joelle Gamble

It's time for the U.S. to recognize that policies to push economic growth must focus on average Americans, not "job creators."

It's time for the U.S. to recognize that policies to push economic growth must focus on average Americans, not "job creators."

Rampant inequality is putting the future of the American economy in peril. The financial recovery we have experienced the past few years has only led to massive gains for top earners and little to no change for average Americans. Decades of policies that throw more benefits to the top have not “trickled down” to the average household.

But more importantly, our current idea of economic progress is skewed. The wealthy have created this idea that “job creators” are a class of people who can magically restore out economy, ignoring the fact that entrepreneurship and innovation come from all economic statuses.

America needs to shift our economic narrative away from a heavy emphasis on GDP-based growth and toward a model that promotes prosperity for everyone. We need to think about how we generate demand in order to create jobs. This demand comes from average Americans having the ability to engage meaningfully in the economy, with fair wages without discrimination in the workplace. In short: economic progress must involve prosperity for all Americans, not just “job creators.”

Legislative battles at the local, state, and federal levels around equal pay and the minimum wage will prove crucial to changing our conception of what constitutes good economic policy. Victories in these fights represent tangible ways in which the average American worker can better his or her own economic prospects and simultaneously grow the economy.

We are seeing progress now. In January, the city of Seattle began pushing to raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15.00 per hour. Earlier this week, the state of Maryland voted to raise its minimum wage from the federal $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Meanwhile, President Obama continues his push for federal action.

Meanwhile, in the United States, women make an average of $0.77 for every $1.00 earned by men, but growing movements are pushing the needle in the right direction. The President signed directives to clamp down on gender discrimination by federal agencies and contractors. Americans show strong bipartisan support for paid sick leave and family leave. Municipalities, are pushing through bills to make this support a reality –in New York City, Mayor De Blasio has already expanded the paid sick leave law that was established in 2013.

While the most sustainable and sweeping changes on these fronts may be best achieved at the federal level, many of the real policy battles are playing out in cities and states. This presents a real opportunity to involve a wide swath of Americans in economic justice work in their neighborhoods. If organizers on the ground build power to push a prosperity-centric policy agenda forward through both community building and new technology platforms, we can see a real shift in the narrative of what economic progress looks like in this nation.

Joelle Gamble is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network National Field Strategist.

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Daily Digest - April 14: A Business Plan for a Better Environment

Apr 14, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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MBAs Will Turn Brownfields Into Green—if Investors Help Them Out (Quartz)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane writes that the social venture competitions becoming common in MBA programs could push sustainability and social change, if Wall Street will fund the proposals.

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MBAs Will Turn Brownfields Into Green—if Investors Help Them Out (Quartz)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane writes that the social venture competitions becoming common in MBA programs could push sustainability and social change, if Wall Street will fund the proposals.

Even As Jobs Numbers Seem Better… (Campaign for America's Future Blog)

Unemployment claims have dropped, and the jobs lost in the recession have been restored, but that's just catch-up. Dave Johnson pulls job creation ideas from a new Roosevelt Institute report, "A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency: 15 Ways We Can Create Good Jobs in America Today."

  • Roosevelt Take: Read the full report, produced by the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

Low-Wage Workers Pay the Price of Nickel-and-Diming by Employers (LA Times)

Michael Hiltzik points out that wage theft is most common in low-paid, labor-intensive, female-heavy industries. Without sufficient government enforcement, workers are forced to fight back on their own.

What If the Minimum Wage Were $15 an Hour? (The Nation)

Sasha Abramsky looks at the political situation in Seattle, where the push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage is taking center stage. He suggests that if Seattle pulls this off, it will dramatically shift the national conversation.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong gave the closing remarks at Seattle's Income Inequality Symposium.

Executive Pay: Invasion of the Supersalaries (NYT)

Rising CEO pay is a major contributing factor to today's economic inequality, writes Peter Eavis. But there's disagreement on how to induce companies to pay CEOs less and average workers more.

The Wall Street Second-Chances Rule: Scandal Makes the Rich Grow Stronger (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore writes that on Wall Street, losses, bankruptcies, and even criminal investigations aren't enough to knock top CEOs out of the business. Profits conquer all, so even financiers embroiled in scandal keep their power.

New on Next New Deal

A Millennial’s Case for Fixing Social Security

Brian Lamberta, Northeast Regional Communications Coordinator for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, explains why and how Millennials should try to fix Social Security instead of giving up on it.

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America Can Attain Full Employment with a Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency

Apr 9, 2014Jeff Madrick

A new report from the Rediscovering Government Initiative lays out 15 ways the government can create more and better jobs starting right now.

A new report from the Rediscovering Government Initiative lays out 15 ways the government can create more and better jobs starting right now.

After five long years, the economy has at last produced enough new jobs to compensate for the 8 million lost in the Great Recession of 2009. But in that same period some 7 million more Americans reached employment age, and we have only produced about half the jobs we need to keep up with population growth. To make matters worse, the jobs created during the recovery pay on average much less than those lost. Yet rather than pulling out all the stops to create more and better jobs, too many politicians and economists tell us we can’t move too quickly. They cite limitation after limitation: inflation fears, budget deficits, skills mismatches, and so on. Americans deserve better than this defeatism. We deserve bold action.

In a new report, A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency, the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative offers fifteen ideas that could get us back to true full employment and at the same time build a foundation for rapid economic growth in the future. We are demanding a full-court press to recreate the economic opportunity that America once offered. We emphasize some ideas that have been heard before, but many that are forced to the back seat or are hardly talked about at all.

There are taboos among policymakers that are holding us back. Above all, we must take fiscal stimulus seriously again. Today’s economy operates far below its growth potential. The fiscal stimulus we need should not only make the social safety net whole but also be tied to aggressive investment in transportation, communications, and clean technologies that have been badly neglected.

The federal government can itself create useful, good-paying jobs in transportation, teaching, and health care. A carefully crafted federal job creation program, as was successfully enacted under FDR, can work today. Fifty billion dollars worth of new jobs could go a long way toward helping Americans.

The repressive effect on jobs and wages that results from aggressive Wall Street practices is all but invisible in Washington. Academic economists are almost as bad as the Washington think tanks in paying too little attention to how big finance can undermine both jobs and wages. Our report highlights the findings of researchers such as Eileen Appelbaum, formerly of Rutgers, and Rosemary Batt of Cornell, who show that the leveraged buyout and privatization crazes have on average led to many lost jobs and significantly less spending on R&D. It also showcases the work of William Lazonick of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, who has long called attention to how massive corporate stock buybacks may help shareholders in the short run but hurt the American economy by diverting investment.

Poor wages are also part and parcel of America’s economic failure. Today’s typical household earns no more after inflation than it did almost 20 years ago. Only 44 percent of Americans think they are middle class, the lowest level recorded. However, until fairly recently, raising the minimum wage has also been taboo. The bill before Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 may still not pass, but intelligently designed studies suggest such a hike could lift not just 1 million, as the Congressional Budget Office has too conservatively estimated, but 6 million people out of poverty and provide raises for about 25 million people. Similarly, we need an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to childless adults, which the president supports.

Most tragically, we neglect our young. Six million or so Americans ages 16 to 24 are neither in school nor have a job. Dozens of local agencies have been created to place these “opportunity youth” on a middle-class track. But they badly need to be scaled up, and federal support is the only way to do so.

The new interest in funding pre-kindergarten in New York City and elsewhere is welcome. But help has to come much earlier in the lives of children in poverty. One in every five America children under the age of six live in poverty, the second-highest rate in the rich world. A growing body of research shows unambiguously how poor children are cognitively and emotional deprived—and how bleak their futures inevitably are. In America more than in any other rich country, inequality begins at birth. We need to address this crisis to begin building the economy of the future.

If America wants a strong future, it had also better invest more in technological research. Government research has been the heart of the innovation economy, as economists have increasingly shown. But Congress mindlessly cut such research last year. It must be revived and expanded. Other recommendations in our report include investments in energy, national paid family leave policies, and re-vamped workforce training.

The decline of work is not inevitable, and there are more ideas than the 15 we present in our report. We calculate that we can get the unemployment rate below 5 percent and raise wages with a combination of such programs, without incurring a dangerously growing budget deficit.

But bankrupt ideology, narrow politics, and bad economics are robbing the nation of its confidence and hope for the future. A comprehensive jobs plan is not even being attempted in America. Failure becomes contagious. Let’s end the fatalism about employment in America now and win back the nation’s hard-won optimism. 

Jeff Madrick is the Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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Daily Digest - April 9: The Social Safety Net is Popular Because It Works

Apr 9, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The One Part of the Charity vs. Social Welfare Argument That Everyone Ignores (The Week)

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The One Part of the Charity vs. Social Welfare Argument That Everyone Ignores (The Week)

Building on Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's piece in Democracy Journal on the myth that private charity could replace government, Matt Bruenig argues that the status quo bias – "let's hold on to what works" – protects social safety net programs once they're in place.

Bill to Restore U.S. Unemployment Insurance Likely to Deadlock in Congress (The Guardian)

Dan Roberts reports that John Boehner will not allow a vote on extended unemployment insurance, which lapsed in December, without provisions to encourage job growth, though the GOP hasn't offered any big ideas.

Labor Department Intervenes on Behalf of Hearst Interns (ProPublica)

In its first amicus brief in an unpaid internship lawsuit, the Labor Department urged the court to use stricter standards to determine whether an unpaid internship is permissible, writes Kara Brandeisky.

Banks Ordered to Add Capital to Limit Risks (NYT)

Federal regulators will increase the leverage ratio, which measures the amount of capital a bank must hold against its assets, writes Peter Eavis. Supporters say this rule is simpler and easier to enforce than other parts of financial reform.

Fed Gives Banks More Time on Volcker Rule Detail (Reuters)

Douwe Miedema reports that banks will get two additional years, through July 21, 2017, to sell off collateralized loan obligations, which the Volcker Rule deems too risky for banks to invest in.

The Unexpected Benefit of Telling People What Their Coworkers Make (The Atlantic)

On Equal Pay Day, many spoke up for pay disclosure as a way to reduce the wage gap. Emiliano Huet-Vaughn's research shows that pay transparency also significantly increases worker productivity.

New on Next New Deal

Is Short-Term Unemployment a Better Predictor of Inflation?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues that we should not ignore long-term unemployment while analyzing how the economy is doing. That makes the Great Recession data make more sense, he says, but isn't applicable today.

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Is Short-Term Unemployment a Better Predictor of Inflation?

Apr 8, 2014Mike Konczal

Alan B. Krueger, Judd Cramer, and David Cho of Princeton recently released a Brookings paper on the state of the labor market titled "Are the Long-Term Unemployed on the Margins of the Labor Market?" Their big headline result is that the long-term unemployed are going to have trouble finding steady work, both as a historical matter and from what we've seen in the Great Recession. It's fascinating work we'll revisit here.

But what does that mean for the job market right now, with its mix of short-term and long-term unemployed? The second takeaway is that if we only look at short-term unemployment, the economy makes more sense than if we look at total unemployment. As Tim Hartford wrote, this research shows that if "we replotted the Phillips curve['s mix of inflation and unemployment]... using statistics on short-term unemployment... it turns out that the old statistical relationships would work just fine." Some are arguing that we should just focus on short-term unemployment for the moment as an indicator of how the economy is doing.

Is that the case? Not really. We should be careful with this argument now, because this is really a matter of 2009-2012. Back then, the question was why inflation was as steady as it was given very high unemployment. In 2014 the question is very different: why is inflation so low given high unemployment and the relationship of the past several years? We need to explain a different problem.

Let's look at a key chart from the Krueger paper (green boxes my addition):

This is the change in core inflation versus unemployment. (There's a similar dynamic with wage inflation in a different chart.) The left graphic is the change in core inflation versus overall unemployment, and the right graphic is the change versus short-term unemployment. As the paper's authors argue, it's a much tighter relationship if you just look at short-term unemployment. But there are three things to note here.

First, as flagged in the green box in the left graphic, the outliers are the years 2009-2012. Looking at their wage inflation version of this in particular, the authors note that they get a higher R-squared and better predictive value using short-term unemployment. But replicating this chart (data), if you simply take out 2009-2011, you also end up with the higher R-squared and better predictive value.

More importantly, as a second matter look at where we are now via the 2013 data point. The total unemployment number for 2013 is right on the line in the left graph. However, as we can see from the green circle on the right, using short-term unemployment shows inflation much lower than anticipated. This is not surprising; one of the more important economic stories of 2013 was the collapse of inflation. Note that if the labor market were actually getting much tighter, inflation should have been increasing during this time period. More broadly, if the problem were the preponderance of long-term unemployed in the general labor market, we wouldn't expect 2013 to go into freefall and hop over the trendline as it did.

I'm very interested in why we didn't collapse into deflation from 2009 to 2011. I imagine the Fed has something to do with it. But as a third point I'd be a little cautious about using just short-term unemployment during that time as an important indicator about the labor market, as job separations collapsed during the crisis. A low short-term unemployment rate reflects people simply not leaving their jobs more than it reflects the idea that the economy was doing better than we'd expect.

But this question is also a historical one. Krueger and his co-authors acknowledge this, using phrasing like "since 2009" as the basis of their paper. But other people might not catch this, and assume that the short-term unemployment rate is crucial for right now. But that doesn't reflect our current situation of low inflation, a falling rate of long-term unemployment, and an unemployment rate that is going to be stuck in the mid-6% range for some time. We shouldn't use a way of adjusting data to examine what was going on in 2010 to argue there's less slack than there actually is out here in 2014.

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Alan B. Krueger, Judd Cramer, and David Cho of Princeton recently released a Brookings paper on the state of the labor market titled "Are the Long-Term Unemployed on the Margins of the Labor Market?" Their big headline result is that the long-term unemployed are going to have trouble finding steady work, both as a historical matter and from what we've seen in the Great Recession. It's fascinating work we'll revisit here.

But what does that mean for the job market right now, with its mix of short-term and long-term unemployed? The second takeaway is that if we only look at short-term unemployment, the economy makes more sense than if we look at total unemployment. As Tim Hartford wrote, this research shows that if "we replotted the Phillips curve['s mix of inflation and unemployment]... using statistics on short-term unemployment... it turns out that the old statistical relationships would work just fine." Some are arguing that we should just focus on short-term unemployment for the moment as an indicator of how the economy is doing.

Is that the case? Not really. We should be careful with this argument now, because this is really a matter of 2009-2012. Back then, the question was why inflation was as steady as it was given very high unemployment. In 2014 the question is very different: why is inflation so low given high unemployment and the relationship of the past several years? We need to explain a different problem.

Let's look at a key chart from the Krueger paper (green boxes my addition):

This is the change in core inflation versus unemployment. (There's a similar dynamic with wage inflation in a different chart.) The left graphic is the change in core inflation versus overall unemployment, and the right graphic is the change versus short-term unemployment. As the paper's authors argue, it's a much tighter relationship if you just look at short-term unemployment. But there are three things to note here.

First, as flagged in the green box in the left graphic, the outliers are the years 2009-2012. Looking at their wage inflation version of this in particular, the authors note that they get a higher R-squared and better predictive value using short-term unemployment. But replicating this chart (data), if you simply take out 2009-2011, you also end up with the higher R-squared and better predictive value.

More importantly, as a second matter look at where we are now via the 2013 data point. The total unemployment number for 2013 is right on the line in the left graph. However, as we can see from the green circle on the right, using short-term unemployment shows inflation much lower than anticipated. This is not surprising; one of the more important economic stories of 2013 was the collapse of inflation. Note that if the labor market were actually getting much tighter, inflation should have been increasing during this time period. More broadly, if the problem were the preponderance of long-term unemployed in the general labor market, we wouldn't expect 2013 to go into freefall and hop over the trendline as it did.

I'm very interested in why we didn't collapse into deflation from 2009 to 2011. I imagine the Fed has something to do with it. But as a third point I'd be a little cautious about using just short-term unemployment during that time as an important indicator about the labor market, as job separations collapsed during the crisis. A low short-term unemployment rate reflects people simply not leaving their jobs more than it reflects the idea that the economy was doing better than we'd expect.

But this question is also a historical one. Krueger and his co-authors acknowledge this, using phrasing like "since 2009" as the basis of their paper. But other people might not catch this, and assume that the short-term unemployment rate is crucial for right now. But that doesn't reflect our current situation of low inflation, a falling rate of long-term unemployment, and an unemployment rate that is going to be stuck in the mid-6% range for some time. We shouldn't use a way of adjusting data to examine what was going on in 2010 to argue there's less slack than there actually is out here in 2014.

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