Thursday, December 31, 2015

Labor Line

October 2015___________________________________

Labor line has job news and commentary with a one stop short cut for America's job markets and job related data including the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This month's job and employment summary data are below. This month's inflation data is below.

The Establishment Job Report and Establishment Job Details for data released October 2, 2015.

American Job Market The Chronicle

Current Job and Employment Data

Total Non-Farm Establishment Jobs up 142,000 to 142,371,000
Total Private Jobs up 118,000 to 120,342,000
Total Government Employment up 24,000 to 22,029,000

Employment Note
Civilian Non-Institutional Population up 229,000 to 251,325,000
Civilian Labor Force down 350,000 to 156,715,000
Employed down 236,000 to 148,800,000
Employed Men down 77,000 to 79,134,000
Employed Women down 160,000 to 69,665,000
Unemployed down 114,000 to 7,915,000
Not in the Labor Force up 579,000 to 94,610,000

Unemployment Rate steady at 5.1%, or 7,915/156,715
Labor Force Participation Rate down .2% to 62.4%, or 156,715/251,325

Prices and inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all Urban Consumers was down 1.62 percent for 2014.

The September CPI report for the 12 months ending with August, shows the

CPI for All Items was up .2%
CPI for Food and Beverages was up 1.5%
CPI for Housing was up 2.0%
CPI for Apparel was down .9%
CPI for Transportation including gasoline was down 6.8%
CPI for Medical Care was up 2.5%
CPI for Recreation was up .6%
CPI for Education was up 3.6%
CPI for Communication was down 2.9%

This Month's Establishment Jobs Press Report


The Bureau of Labor Statistics published its October report for jobs in September. This month had an extra large increase of adults not in the labor force, 579 thousand. The increase included the normal monthly increase in the population and 340 thousand more who left the labor force. The labor force decline was divided between a 236 thousand decrease in the employed and a 114 thousand decrease in the unemployed. The decrease in employment offset the decrease in unemployment to keep the unemployment rate at 5.1 percent. The labor force participation rate dropped .2 percent to 62.4 percent, historically a very low rate.

The seasonally adjusted total of establishment jobs was up 142 thousand for September, less than the last two months. The increase was a net of 118 thousand more private sector jobs combined with an increase of 24 thousand in government service jobs.

The goods production sector was off 9 thousand jobs, a smaller loss than last month, but still a loss. Construction employment had the only increase with 8 thousand new jobs, mostly in specialty trade contracting. Natural resources and mining employment dropped again, with a net loss of 12 thousand jobs. Mining lost 10.3 thousand of the 12 thousand jobs, mostly support activities employment. Manufacturing dropped a net of 9 thousand jobs, split between durable and non-durable goods. Among durable goods, motor vehicle assembly and parts manufacturing and furniture manufacturing combined for 6.2 thousand new jobs, but virtually everything else in manufacturing was off.

Government service added 24 thousand jobs for September. The Federal government was off 2 thousand jobs in September, but state government added 17 thousand jobs including education. Local government added 9 thousand jobs, but none in public education. State public education was up 13.6 thousand seasonally adjusted, a quite large increase, but the local schools remained unchanged. Private school education dropped 7.9 thousand jobs for a net increase of only 6 thousand jobs in public and private education.

Health care had the biggest job increase among private service industries with 36 thousand new jobs for September. It is the second month that health care took first place for a monthly increase. All four sub-sectors in health care had more jobs. Ambulatory care had only 12.9 thousand of the new jobs, after last month's bigger increase. Hospital care another 15.5 thousand jobs, nursing care 6.0 thousand jobs, and social assistance 2 thousand jobs. Growth rates around 2.5 percent are typical for health care, but this month's health employment growth rate was below average at 2.34 percent.

Professional and business services had 31 thousand new jobs for September, about the same as last month. The professional and technical services sub sector had 17.7 thousand of the new jobs, but only accounting and bookkeeping and computer design and related services did well with a combined increase of 12.4 thousand jobs.

The management of companies and enterprises sub sector with jobs at head offices increased again with 2.4 thousand jobs about the same as last month. Among the administrative and support service sub sectors employment services were up a paltry 5.3 thousand jobs. Waste management and remediation added 1.6 thousand jobs, more than usual.

The job gains for leisure and hospitality service were 35 thousand for September, a modest increase. Arts, entertainment and recreation added 12.6 thousand jobs after last month's smaller increase. Accommodations added 2.4 thousand jobs, a good increase for accommodations, which typically has small declines. Restaurants added 20.7 thousand jobs, which typically has bigger increases.

Trade, transportation and utilities services were up with 23 thousand new jobs for September, only a small increase. Retail trade dominated the increase with 23.7 thousand new jobs. Wholesale trade was off 4.1 thousand jobs in contrast to transportation with a net increase of 3.5 thousand jobs. Couriers and messengers, and warehousing and storage combined for 5.1 thousand new jobs that were offset by declines across modal transportation.

Information services added 12 thousand jobs as a result of unusually large gains in motion picture and sounding recording jobs. Financial activities had a net of zero jobs for September, although the insurance industry still had a small increase of 1.7 thousand jobs. The category, other services managed a net gain of a thousand jobs, a smaller increase than recent months. Personal and laundry service job gains offset other small losses.

The September establishment employment is higher than any previous month, but the increase of 142 thousand jobs for non-farm establishment employment lowers the annual growth to 1.2 percent, too low to keep up with population growth. The industries that have decreased and floundered in recent months continue to do so. This month health care had more new jobs than any other sector but a September growth rate below the long-term average health care growth rate of 2.5 percent. Think of that as a symbol of this month's modest increase. September's job growth makes it a so-so month.


September Details

Non Farm Total +142
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Non-Farm employment for establishments increased from August by 142 thousand jobs for a(n) September total of 142.371 million. (Note 1 below) An increase of 142 thousand each month for the next 12 months represents an annual growth rate of 1.20%. The annual growth rate from a year ago beginning September 2014 was +1.97%; the average annual growth rate from 5 years ago beginning September 2010 was +1.79%; from 15 years ago beginning September 2000 it was .49%. America needs growth around 1.5 percent a year to keep itself employed.


Sector breakdown for 12 Sectors in 000's of jobs

1. Natural Resources -12
Natural Resources jobs including logging and mining were down 12 thousand from August at 809 thousand jobs in September. A decrease of 12 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -17.54 percent. Natural resource jobs are down 101 thousand for the 12 months just ended. Jobs in the 1990's totaled around 770 thousand. Job growth here will be small compared to America's job needs. This is the smallest of 12 major sectors of the economy with .6 percent of establishment jobs.

2. Construction +8
Construction jobs were up 8 thousand from August at 6.396 million jobs in September. An increase of 8 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of 1.50 percent. Construction jobs are up 205 thousand for the 12 months just ended. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +3.06%. Construction jobs rank 9th among the 12 sectors with 4.5 percent of non farm employment.

3. Manufacturing -9
Manufacturing jobs were down 9 thousand from August at 12.318 million jobs in September. A decrease of 9 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -.88 percent. Manufacturing jobs were up for the last 12 months by 104 thousand. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +1.27%; for the last 15 years by -2.21%. In 1994, manufacturing ranked 2nd but now ranks 6th among 12 major sectors in the economy with 8.7 percent of establishment jobs.

4. Trade, Transportation & Utility +23
Trade, both wholesale and retail, transportation and utility employment was up by 23 thousand jobs from August to 27,003 million jobs in September. These jobs tend to increase at a slower rate than the total of non-farm jobs, but an increase of 23 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.02 percent. Jobs are up by 536 thousand for the last 12 months. Growth rates for the last 5 years are +1.80 percent. Jobs in these sectors rank first as the biggest sectors with combined employment of 19.0 percent of total establishment employment.

5. Information Services +12
Information Services employment was up by 12 from August to 2.801 million jobs in September. An increase of 12 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +5.16 percent. (Note 2 below) Jobs are up by 44 thousand for the last 12 months. Monthly employment in information services gyrates month to month and has been doing so for more than a decade. Information jobs reached 3.7 million at the end of 2000, but started dropping, reaching 3 million by 2004 , but now creeps up to 2.8 million. Information Services is a small sector ranking 11th of 12 with 2.0 percent of establishment jobs.

6. Financial Activities +0
Financial Activities jobs stayed the same from August at 8.154 million in September. An increase of 0 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +0.0 percent. Jobs are up 147 thousand for the last 12 months. (Note 3 below)This sector also includes real estate as well as real estate lending. Financial Services has been growing slowly with many months of negative growth. The long term growth rates are now at a 5 year growth rate of +1.20 percent, and a 15 year growth rate of +.30 percent. Financial activities rank 8 of 12 with 5.7 percent of establishment jobs.

7. Business & Professional Services +31
Business and Professional Service jobs went up 31 thousand from August to 19.847 million in September. An increase of 31 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.88 percent. Jobs are up 616 thousand for the last 12 months. Note 4 The annual growth rate for the last 5 years was 3.40 percent. It ranks as 2nd among the 12 sectors now. It was third in May 1993, when manufacturing was bigger and second rank now with 14.0 percent of establishment employment.

8. Education including public and private +6
Education jobs went up 6 thousand jobs from August at 13.766 million in September. These include public and private education. An increase of 6 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +.5 percent. Jobs are up 106 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 5) The 15 year growth rate equals 1.05 percent, slower than the national average. Education ranks 4th among 12 sectors with 9.7 percent of establishment jobs.

9. Health Care +36
Health care jobs were up 36 thousand from August to 18.702 million in September. An increase of 36 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.34 percent. Jobs are up 560 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 6) The current month was below long term trends and less than growth from a year ago when the annual growth rate was +3.08 percent. Health care has been growing at +2.50 percent annual rate for the last 15 years, a rate greater than the national rate. Health care ranks 3rd of 12 with 13.1 percent of establishment jobs.

10. Leisure and hospitality +35
Leisure and hospitality jobs went up 35 thousand from August to 15.221 million in September. An increase of 35 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.77 percent. Jobs are up 426 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 7) The 5 year growth rate is 2.99%. More than 80 percent of leisure and hospitality are accommodations and restaurants assuring that most of the new jobs are in restaurants. Leisure and hospitality ranks 4th of 12 with 10.7 percent of establishment jobs. It moved up from 7th in the 1990's to 5th in the last few years.

11. Other +1
Other Service jobs, which include repair, maintenance, personal services and non-profit organizations went up 1 thousand from August to 5.640 million jobs in September. An increase of 1 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +.21 percent. Jobs are up 58 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 8) Other services had +1.13 percent growth for the last 5 years. These sectors rank 10th of 12 with 4.0 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.

12. Government, excluding education +11
Government service employment was up +11 thousand jobs from August with 11.715 million in September. An increase of 11 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.13 percent. Jobs are up 55 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 9) Government jobs excluding education tend to increase slowly but surely with a 15 year growth rate of +.19 percent. Government, excluding education, ranks 7th of 12 with 8.2 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.


Sector Notes___________________________

(1) The total cited above is non-farm establishment employment that counts jobs and not people. If one person has two jobs then two jobs are counted. It excludes agricultural employment and the self employed. Out of a total of people employed agricultural employment typically has about 1.5 percent, the self employed about 6.8 percent, the rest make up wage and salary employment. Jobs and people employed are close to the same, but not identical numbers because jobs are not the same as people employed: some hold two jobs. Remember all these totals are jobs. back

(2) Information Services is part of the new North American Industry Classification System(NAICS). It includes firms or establishments in publishing, motion picture & sound recording, broadcasting, Internet publishing and broadcasting, telecommunications, ISPs, web search portals, data processing, libraries, archives and a few others.back

(3) Financial Activities includes deposit and non-deposit credit firms, most of which are still known as banks, savings and loan and credit unions, but also real estate firms and general and commercial rental and leasing.back

(4) Business and Professional services includes the professional areas such as legal services, architecture, engineering, computing, advertising and supporting services including office services, facilities support, services to buildings, security services, employment agencies and so on.back

(5) Education includes private and public education. Therefore education job totals include public schools and colleges as well as private schools and colleges. back

(6) Health care includes ambulatory care, private hospitals, nursing and residential care, and social services including child care. back

(7) Leisure and hospitality has establishment with arts, entertainment and recreation which has performing arts, spectator sports, gambling, fitness centers and others, which are the leisure part. The hospitality part has accommodations, motels, hotels, RV parks, and full service and fast food restaurants. back

(8) Other is a smorgasbord of repair and maintenance services, especially car repair, personal services and non-profit services of organizations like foundations, social advocacy and civic groups, and business, professional, labor unions, political groups and political parties. back

(9) Government job totals include federal, state, and local government administrative work but without education jobs. back



Jobs are not the same as employment because jobs are counted once but one person could have two jobs adding one to employment but two to jobs. Also the employment numbers include agricultural workers, the self employed, unpaid family workers, household workers and those on unpaid leave. Jobs are establishment jobs and non-other. back


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Jobs for Chemists


Standard Occupational Classification #19-2031 Chemist

SOC definition Chemist #19-2031 - Conduct qualitative and quantitative chemical analyses or chemical experiments in laboratories for quality or process control or to develop new products or knowledge. Chemists are also known as inorganic chemists or chemical analyst. A Chemist is a separate occupation from other occupations that use chemistry skills such as Chemical engineer, #17-2041 and biochemists, #19-1021.

Chemists are classified as physical science occupations with the largest share working in the manufacturing industry. Almost all manufacturing firms hire a few chemists and 37.9 percent of those employed as chemists work in manufacturing. The Chemical manufacturing industry employs the highest share of chemists, at 31.7 percent, leaving only 6.2 percent of chemists working in other manufacturing industries. Over half of chemists working in chemical manufacturing work for pharmaceutical firms or firms manufacturing medicine, 18.1 percent actually.

Just over 12.6 percent of chemists work for engineering firms, mostly in testing labs and another 18.9 percent are employed in scientific research and development. About 5 percent teach, mostly at colleges and universities. The federal, state, and local government employs 13.4 percent. The remainder are quite scattered with nearly one percent working in waste management and remediation.

National employment as chemists was 85,970 in 2014. Jobs are up since 2000 when 82,320 worked as chemists. The annual average job increase equals 231 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of .31 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for chemists at 560 per year through 2022 at a growth rate of .55 percent a year.

Job openings make a better measure of new hiring than job growth. Job openings are job growth and the number of net replacements. Net replacements are people who permanently leave an occupation for another occupation or retirement and must be replaced before there can be job growth. Job openings for chemists are forecast to be 2,780 a year through 2022.

The recently updated Bureau of Labor Statistics Education and Training Classification assignments lists BA degree skills as necessary for entry into jobs as Chemists. However, percentages from survey data are published for chemists showing an educational distribution where 52.5 percent have a BA degree, 40 percent have advanced degrees, 4.2 percent some college, but no degree. Almost 3 percent have an associate’s degree. High school skills were sufficient for .1 percent that work here and .1 percent have less than a high school degree. Previous experience and on-the-job training are considered unnecessary for entry.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports degree data for America’s colleges and universities that can be compared with job growth and openings. There were 13,416 BA degrees granted in 7 programs in June 2012, the last year of complete degree data. There were also 2,434 MA degrees granted in 7 programs in chemistry and 2,532 Ph.D. degrees granted in Chemistry. BA degrees are up by 790 from the previous year. The ratio of relevant BA degrees to openings equals 4.82, or 13,416/2,780, assuring plenty of qualified candidates to fill job openings.

The basic wage data from the BLS occupational employment survey includes a wage distribution. Averages are not used much in wage data. A few high wages pull up the average and make it unrepresentative. Instead a distribution range of wages is published with the 10th, 25th, median, 75th, and 90th percentiles of wages. A 10th percentile wage means 10 percent working in this occupation have wages equal to or less than the 10th percentile wage and so on. Annual wages are converted to hourly wages by dividing annual wages by 2080

The entry wage for the national market in the 10th percentile for chemists is reported as $41,560 in 2014. The 25th percentile wage equals $53,420. The median wage is $73,480, the 75th percentile wage equals $99,360 and the 90th percentile wage is $126,220.

The wages of chemists have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2006 median wage of $59,870 in 2014, the chemist wage would need to be $70,304.49. In stead it was $73,480, a 4.52 percent increase in the real wage for those eight years.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Millennials Weary from Overwork

Millennials Weary from Overwork

A recent article in the Washington Post reports on a Global Generations Research Survey by Ernst and Young. [Millennials want a work-life balance. Their bosses don't understand why, WP, 5-6-15] The report finds many work long hours. As a consequence they delay having children, discontinue education and struggle to pay tuition for their children. The article contrasts Millennials with older generations where the young expect technology to free them to work productively from anywhere, but the older bosses are “afraid people who don’t come to the office won’t work as hard.”

The article does not mention a prime source of overwork: unpaid overtime. The demand to have employees around warming up a chair to meet the expectations of the boss has a special hypocrisy since it is common now for business to issue laptop computers, cell phones, and Blackberry’s to employees for use away from the office. Using new technology makes staff available for overtime on evening, weekends, or the middle of the night. Few reports suggest business treat these additional hours of work as paid work much less time and a half for overtime required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Back in 2003 the Bush Administration quietly rewrote the overtime rules in the Fair Labor Standards Act. In theory working more than forty hours a week is entitled to pay at time and half the regular pay rate. The Fair Labor Standards Act rules start out with the time and half rule, but they are followed with pages and pages of exceptions that make it easy for management to avoid overtime pay whenever they want.

Three people working forty hours a week equal two people working sixty hours a week, but management pays less for the two when overtime rules allow unpaid overtime. The abuse violates more than the overtime rules because the Fair Labor Standards Act requires at least regular pay for time worked in all cases. Overtime rules exempt millions of America’s executive, administrative, professional, computer, outside sales employees, motion picture employees, and other more narrowly defined occupations from overtime pay, but quite often they work overtime hours for free. Millions confront regular pressure to donate hours of work to their employers while others looking for work find that difficult to do with others working for nothing.

The Code of Federal Regulations sections known as 29 CFR 541 governs overtime rules. The rules run over 15 thousand words after the Bush Administration revisions. The revisions make it possible to avoid overtime pay for almost any office and professional work as long as an employee receives a salary equal to or greater than $455 a week, or $23,660 on an annual basis. Notice that any employer has authority to pay by the week or pay by the hour to fit the regulations as they choose. In practice it turns out weekly, monthly or annual pay makes it easy to forget the total of hours worked.

The long detailed wording in the regulations allows an employer to define or adjust duties to meet the regulations. The wording for administrative employees explains that any employee employed in a bona fide administrative capacity who is “compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week, exclusive of board, lodging or other facilities, whose primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers, and whose primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance” can be exempt from overtime pay.

The regulations describe ways that discretion, independent judgement, and matters of significance might occur and then by changed by higher ups in order to exempt an employer from overtime pay. The regulations read “The exercise of discretion and independent judgment implies that the employee has authority to make an independent choice, free from immediate direction or supervision. However, employees can exercise discretion and independent judgment even if their decisions or recommendations are reviewed at a higher level. Thus, the term ‘discretion and independent judgment’ does not require that the decisions made by an employee have a finality that goes with unlimited authority and a complete absence of review.”

The Obama Administration, now well into a second term, has finally proposed amendments to the overtime rules. They want to raise the salary cap for overtime exemption from $23,660 to $52,000. Business opponents of the change worry and fret to Congress that the new law will cause more lawsuits.

Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle Restaurants, told Congress “The new regulations will only result in more complicated laws, and eventually more lawsuits.” He means that raising the threshold for exemption will give financial incentive for more people and groups to challenge the vague terminology used to avoid paying overtime since the Bush Administration amendments went into effect in 2004.

Lawsuits are already on the rise the government’s GAO (General Accounting Office) reports because more employees are tired of employers who expect them to be available to answer emails and cell phones out of business hours on weekends and evenings.

Some like Ryan Shaw, quoted in the Millennial article above, have taken the work hours issue one step further. If they can be expected to work part of the time away from the office then why not all of the time. Since his work was over the Internet and on computers he demanded to leave his employer’s home base in Los Angeles and move to Florida and do his work from there based on a salary disconnected from work hours. Now his work depends only on what he does and not how he does it. Some employers have a hard time recognizing work for what it is; they want control over time.

It’s hard to defend rules that keep employees at work for free. As the Obama Administration moves into its final years, it is about time they did something for working Americans. The proposed rule changes make changes in the right direction; the only question is why so little, so late.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

City of Scoundrels

Gary Krist, City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago, (New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 2012), 273 pages.

Students and scholars of American history will remember how 1919 turned into a post war nightmare of bombings, strikes, riots and violence. The year started with the Seattle general strike. Random bombings started in February and continued around the country. There were the summer race riots, the worst one in Chicago, the fall strikes of the Boston police, steel workers and coal miners. The first raids of A. Mitchell Palmer’s red scare took place in November.

In City of Scoundrels, Gary Krist narrates the 1919 life and troubles for Chicago with special emphasis on twelve days from July 21 to August 1, 1919. The opening prologue narrates a burning exploding Goodyear blimp, the Wingfoot Express, that fell into the central court of the Illinois Trust bank in downtown Chicago on July 21. Bank employees were finishing their workday when the flaming mass dropped literally onto their heads, killing twelve and wounding many more.

Part I follows with eight chapters of background history and events of Chicago from January 1, 1919 until the July 21, 1919 crash of the blimp, which Krist assures readers was a miner mishap compared to what was coming. Chicago politics dominate these early chapters with a detailed account of Mayor Big Bill Thompson’s 1919 campaign for a second term and his rivalry with Illinois Governor Frank Lowden.

Krist mentions events and careers of a number of famous or notorious people with Chicago connections like attorney Clarence Darrow, journalist Ring Lardner, poet and journalist Carl Sandberg, black activist Ida Wells-Barnett, and the new Chicago White Sox manager, “Kid” Gleason.

Discussion includes the newspaper rivalries of the Chicago Tribune and its editor Robert McCormack with the Chicago Daily News and its editor Victor Lawson. Bombings in black neighborhoods and the death of Ernestine Ellis foreshadow the race riots to come. Krist had access to several diaries, which helped him give readers a feel for the Chicago social life of the era that includes discussion of the 1919 new years’ eve celebration and the onset of prohibition.

Krist titles part II, Crisis. It narrates four crisis sprinkled through ten chapters, one chapter for each day starting with Tuesday, July 22 and so on until August 1. Part II picks up the aftermath of the blimp crash, the abduction and murder of a young girl named Janet Wilkinson, a citywide transit strike, and south side race riot.

The Blimp crash brought hearings with charges and counter charges that open part II. The best quote for me came from a Chicago Evening Post editorial. The crash “is due, as so many other disasters are due, to the American habit of taking no preventive action till the disaster as occurred.” Still true I would say.

The blimp crash and its aftermath are one thread through recurring narrative of the four crisis. Krist covers the Janet Wilkinson case in great detail: the disappearance, suspects, arrests, interrogation, a confession, the trial, and execution by hanging, but over half of the 100 plus pages of part II narrate the riots and transit strike which occur on the same July days.

Readers confront the extraordinary violence and bitterness of the riots and the determination of the black community to fight back. Many in the black community served in the armed forces and fought in France during World War I. Narrative highlights the role of white youth gangs in the violence. Like the St. Louis riots before it arson wiped out whole neighborhoods and spread to downtown areas.

Readers will have to evaluate the political and personal rivalry of Mayor Thompson and Illinois Governor Frank Lowden, who acted as competitors rather than allies in spite of the riot. Narrative describes how Mayor Thompson succeeded in keeping Governor Lowden from calling out the National Guard until the Mayor decided it was time on the fourth day, after most of the 23 blacks and 15 whites killed in the riots, were already dead.

Four chapters and an epilogue cover the post riot period from August 1, 1919 through the end of 1920. Much of it recounts the continuing rivalry of the Mayor and the Governor. The Mayor was determined to sabotage the governor’s plan to end the transit strike. The 1920 Republican National Convention was in Chicago and Mayor Thompson had control of key Illinois delegates he used against one of the presidential front runners: Illinois
Governor Frank Lowden. The epilogue follows the major characters in the narrative with a “where they are now” wrap up.

It should be no surprise journalist Krist writes smooth journalistic narrative. The book makes easy reading with sources well documented and a useful and varied bibliography. There are also some fun black and white pictures of the people we meet in the book.

The title of the book, City of Scoundrels, fits for a book length account of grimy Chicago politics and berserk violence, but the sub title, the 12 days of disaster that gave birth to modern Chicago, doesn’t fit as well for me. It could be he means modern Chicago still lives by the me-first principles of “Big Bill" Thompson. I took the mention of the 17 year old Richard J. Daley as a member of one of the white street gangs to be a hint in that direction, but Krist doesn’t follow up too well with what he means by modern Chicago. After you finish this book you might feel better if you just think about Chicago as the windy city!

Monday, June 8, 2015

2014 – A Bad Year for Wages

The Inflation rate for 2014 was low at 1.62 percent, but generally more than dollar wage increases. America has 26 occupations with at least a million people employed in 2014, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports have total employment of 50.5 million. Among the 26 occupations 18 of them had a decrease in real wages; eight had an increase, but the highest increase of the 8 was only .58 percent.

Occupations with lower buying power for 2014 include jobs from management, finance, education, health care, sales, office administration, maintenance and repair, manufacturing and transportation. One of the 26 occupations mentioned is in management: general and operations managers. Its percentage increase in median wages from 2013 to 2014 was .87 compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $96,460 for general and operations managers increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $97,994.31. Instead it is $97,270, a -.74 percent decrease in the real wage.

Accountants and auditors had 1.2 million employed in 2014 with a reported 2014 median wage of $65,940, more than the 2013 median wage of $65,080, but not enough to keep up with inflation. Buying power declined by -.3 percent.

Elementary school teachers had 1.4 million employed in 2014 with a median wage of $54,120, more than the 2013 median wage of $53,540, but real wages declined -.62 percent as a result of inflation. Registered nurses had 2.7 million employed with a 2014 median wage of $66,640, the 2014 increase did not keep up with inflation and registered nurses had a -.97 percent decrease in buying power for 2014.

America’s two biggest occupations are retail salesperson with 4.6 million jobs and cashier with 3.4 million jobs. For retail salespersons the percentage increase in median wages from 2013 to 2014 was 1.18 percent compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $21,140 for retail salesperson increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $21,482.94. Instead it is $21,390, a -.43 percent decrease in the real wage.

For cashiers the median wages from 2013 to 2014 were up .53 percent compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $18,960 for cashiers increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $19,267.57. Instead it is $19,060,
a –1.08 percent decrease in the real wage.

Comparing other years than 2013 with 2014 can give a more complete picture of wage changes. For example, with accountants and auditors the real wage declined from 2013 to 2014, but comparing 2000 wages with 2014 looks much better. For accountants and auditors the 2000 median wage of $45,380 would need to increase to $60,687.98 in 2014 to keep up with the rate of inflation through 2014. Instead it is $65,940, an 8.65 percent increase in the real wage for the 14 years.

For accountants and auditors the decline from 2013 to 2014 looks like a temporary set back in a general upward trend of real wages. In contrast for cashiers real wages are down in 2014 compared to any year of the last 15 years. Median wages adjusted for inflation were down 1.08 percent from 2013 to 2014, down 2.56 percent from 2012 to 2014, down 3.77 percent from 2011 to 2014, down 5.1 percent for 2010 to 2014, down 4.12 percent from 2000 to 2014. For cashiers the 2000 median wage of $14,460 would need to increase to $19,879.23 in 2014 to keep up with the rate of inflation. Instead it is $19,060, hence the 4.12 percent decline.

None of the major occupational categories escaped a decline in wages compared to inflation. In the 34 managerial occupations 13 had real wage declines for 2014 over 2013. However, 53 percent of those employed as managers lost buying power including all of those in education administration.

Food preparation and serving related occupations had the broadest losses with 16 of 18 occupations losing compared to inflation, or 98 percent of food service and restaurant jobs out of a total of 11.9 million in food service occupations losing ground on inflation. Cashier and retail salespersons are two sales occupations, but 14 out of 22 sales occupations show a real wage decline where 85 percent of jobs in sales lost buying power because wage increases did not keep up with inflation.

In health care 26 out of 62 occupations showed a real wage decline. Because some of the more important jobs like registered nurse show real wage declines, almost 73 percent of health care jobs did not keep up with inflation from 2013 to 2014. Computing occupations did relatively well, but some had real wage declines. Web developers had a 2013 median wage of $63,160, but needed to increase to $64,184.60 to equal the rate of inflation through 2014. Instead it is $63,490, a –1.08 percent decrease in the real wage.

The data used here comes from the Occupational Employment Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It offers a comprehensive and consistent method to survey and compare wage data. It is not infallible, but it shows broad and troubling losses in buying power for millions of wage earners.

The past year was a good year for jobs with 3.1 million new jobs for the 12 months ending December 2014. The press and other media discussed the new jobs as a good thing, generally without reservation. However, stagnant or falling wages encourages new hiring in the short run and so the new jobs went with stagnant wages. Millions more work but their jobs contribute to wage and income inequality. Productivity, output per hour of work, continues to rise. Wages need to rise by the amount of inflation plus at least the annual increase in productivity to be a good year for wages. More jobs are good, but a good year needs more jobs with more buying power. It did not happen in 2014. Maybe another year?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Salary Sharing Taboos and the Memory of Gordie Howe

The title of the article reads “Salary-sharing taboo a big hurdle for pay equity.” [Washington Post, 5-10-15] No single bit of American pretension, vanity and egotism does more to harm the common cause of labor than pay secrecy. It harms more than pay equity; it lowers wages for all.

The article cites a linkedIn survey of a thousand full-time U.S. workers that found 73 percent aren’t comfortable discussing their pay with anyone at their office. Only 13 percent said they were completely comfortable while 14 percent said they could discuss salary with close colleagues but not their wider team.

Pay differentials create the incentive to replace higher paid labor with lower paid labor. If Harry makes more than Barry, business has the incentive to replace Harry with Larry and pay him like Barry. Some people seem to understand this when they complain that union negotiators sell out their members by agreement to have a two-tier wage system. If Harry knows Barry makes less, it is their mutual self interest to negotiate the higher pay for both.

The article cites women as less comfortable than men when discussing pay. How foolish when women have a long history of pay discrimination. Some managers take their discrimination seriously and do not hire women at any wage, but the more unscrupulous know women are employable and productive and can be hired at low wages to replace Harry, Barry or Larry. If women would discuss pay with their male colleagues they would learn lots about the men around them, or any claims they offer about equality.

In a recent sports book about Hockey Legend Gordie Howe, he discusses some of his contract negotiations with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe admitted he and his teammates were in the dark about team salaries and for other players in the NHL. Their contracts committed them to secrecy and forbid comparing pay with teammates or players on other teams.

During contract negotiations General Manager Jack Adams would always tell Howe he was the highest paid player in the league, which would be appropriate for one the finest players ever to play hockey. Trouble is he wasn’t. It was years later that he learned from a player on another team who was head of the players association that he was not even the highest paid player on his team. With that information he negotiated a raise. There was no sign management was embarrassed by their deception.

If pay secrecy appeals to your vanity, remember Gordie. Pay differentials and pay secrecy hold wages down for everyone; they are one of many enemies of better wages.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin Unions and the Plans Ahead

America’s National Labor Relations law as amended governs private sector unions, but not public sector unions. Public sector unions organize and operate under state enabling legislation. Some states like Virginia do not permit public sector unions. In 2011 the state of Wisconsin repealed legislation that allowed public sector unions and cut health insurance and pension benefits at the same time.

In an article from the Washington Post author Robert Samuels reported membership in unions of Wisconsin public school teachers dropped by 50 percent; Wisconsin public employee unions plummeted by as much as 70 percent. [Wis. Unions crippled by clash with governor, WP, 2-23-15] A local AFSME member quoted in the article is out knocking on doors trying to get former members to rejoin and telling them dues will be reduced from $59 a month to $36.

A union has to negotiate and administer a collective bargaining contract to serve its members. Few employers agree to an employment contract when they hire employees. Without a written contract employment is said to be “at will,” a euphemistic term for a job with no rights at all. At will employees can be fired, demoted or laid off at anytime and without recourse.

A union collective bargaining contract establishes written procedures for internal due process and terms for dismissal for cause and seniority in addition to a wage scale and other rights. Without recognition by management or a contract, there is next to nothing that remains of the unions to justify taking $36 a month in dues from members. Maybe those who have dropped out of Wisconsin unions understand that, but it is less clear what those who hang on hope to accomplish.

Without labor law, unions can only get recognition if they have the economic power and the solidarity to strike. Before 1935 and the passing of the National Labor Relations Act the government took no formal role in labor relations. There were strikes and boycotts that tested a union’s economic power to fight the dictates of employers. Win or lose strikes disrupted the economy and cut production.

The National Labor Relations Act created an official body with the National Labor Relations Board to administer and interpret the law. Several specific aims and policies emerged in just a few years and continue today. Government primarily aims to prevent strikes and economic disruptions. In that role government helped create union contract administration that eliminate strikes with a union bureaucracy that can and does act with little or no involvement from the rank and file membership.

The Washington Post article mentioned above has several quotations to illustrate working class isolation and indifference to unions. “If you do a good job everything will take care of itself. The money I’d spend on dues is way more valuable to buy groceries for my family.”

One quotation expressed bitterness with “Everyone knows teachers’ insurance was some of the best you could get. They do fairly well around here, and they do a good job teaching. But everyone in this town has had to tighten their belts. They should too.”

The Federal government and many states offer collective bargaining rights as a voluntary and practical concession to organized labor. Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature repealed their voluntary offer to bargain in good faith, but that does not prevent union organizing. Labor laws like those in Wisconsin suggest to the unwary they need a special law to grant rights they already have in the constitution: the right of free speech and free association.

In effect Governor Walker and his promoters want to debase the working class for personal or political purposes, but they did not acknowledge that doing so turns the clock back to the days when unions had to strike, picket and rampage to force bargaining and recognition. Governor Walker cannot eliminate the right to organize a union or its ability to disrupt the economy.

There was a time when unions did not worry about labor law. From 1905 to 1917 it took military force to end picketing and break strikes of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). They worked for One Big Union of all workers. Men and women of any race, creed, color or immigrants of any national origin found low fees and dues, immediate rank and file participation, and direct action on wages and working conditions.

The IWW rejected dues check off as a conflict of interest for leaders who might compromise member interests for a steady income. The IWW did not promote legislation or worry about elective politics. They wanted negotiations at the work place, not legislation, seldom enforced.

The IWW considered strikes as a necessary test of their economic power. Strike early and strike often; use mass picketing, parades and demonstrations as a show of solidarity for themselves and others.

The IWW had no use for grievance procedures that replaced rank and file action with private negotiations between employers and labor leaders. Everyone was a leader in the IWW.

The IWW did not worry about a signed contract. They expected employers to repudiate contracts unless the union had the economic power to enforce them. No terms with an employer were ever settled or final; the IWW regarded every battle as a continuing part of a working class struggle they lived with day to day.

There were plenty in business and politics in the last century who liked to taunt organized labor exactly like Scott Walker and the Koch brothers do today. In some of the more celebrated strikes in mining, railroading and steel the tycoons of industry like Henry C Frick, William R Grace, and Elbert H Gary got the working class so angry their strikes could not be broken without the armed intervention of state militia and the federal government.

At least the working class of 1910 and 1920 understood they were working class and what solidarity could do them, even when they lost. The limp and pathetic response of the people in the Samuels piece describes a divided class of people embarrassed to admit they are working class. People without an identity cannot fight; instead they slobber on the people who cheat them.

If the defunct unions of Wisconsin understand their circumstance they will change their name to “Union of Wisconsin” open to everyone who works for wages. They will lower their dues to a dollar or two a year and organize rank and file participation while accepting there cannot be full time paid staff. They must organize and support a selection of strikes. Pick out some chains or a school district to walk out and shut down for a day, or longer, and be ready to give financial support to those with the courage to do it. Of course, this assumes solidarity. What class are you in?