Monday, December 31, 2018

Labor Line

February 2018___________________________________

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 February 2, 2018.

American Job Market The Chronicle

Current Job and Employment Data

Total Non-Farm Establishment Jobs up 200,000 to 147,810,000
Total Private Jobs up 196,000 to 125,482,000
Total Government Employment up 4,000 to 22,328,000

Employment Note
Civilian Non-Institutional Population up 674,000 to 256,780,000
Civilian Labor Force up 518,000 to 161,115,000
Employed up 409,000 to 154,430,000
Employed Men up 453,000 to 82,274,000
Employed Women down 43,000 to 72,157
Unemployed up 108,000 to 6,684,000
Not in the Labor Force up 153,000 to 95,665,000

Unemployment Rate stayed the same at 4.1% or 6,684/161,115
Labor Force Participation Rate stayed the same at 62.7%, or 161,115/256,780

Prices and inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all Urban Consumers was up by a monthly average of 2.13 percent for 2017.

The FEbruary CPI report for the 12 months ending with January, shows the

CPI for All Items was up 2.1%
CPI for Food and Beverages was up 1.6%
CPI for Housing was up 2.8%
CPI for Apparel was down .7%
CPI for Transportation including gasoline was up 3.0%
CPI for Medical Care was up 2.0%
CPI for Recreation was up 1.1%
CPI for Education was up 2.0%
CPI for Communication was down 4.9%

This Month's Establishment Jobs Press Report


The Bureau of Labor Statistics published its February report for jobs in January. They completed their annual data revision with this month's report. The employed increased by 409 thousand while the unemployed jumped 108 thousand. Employment of men jumped 453 thousand; employed women dropped 43 thousand. At the start of 2018 employed women totaled 72.157 million; employed men 82.274 million. The participation rate from men equals 69.2 percent; for women 56.7 percent. The increase in the employed increased the denominator enough to offset the increase in the unemployed to keep the unemployment rate steady at 4.1 per cent. The overall labor force participation rate also held steady at 62.7 percent for the fourth month.

The seasonally adjusted total of establishment employment was up 200 thousand for January. The increase was 139 thousand more jobs in the private service sector combined with a 57 thousand increase in jobs from goods production. The total of 196 thousand more private sector jobs combined with an increase of 4 thousand government service jobs accounts for the total increase.

The goods production sub sectors had another month of better than usual job growth with more jobs in all three sub sectors for January. Natural resources had a net of 6 thousand more jobs, most from gains in support activities in mining. Construction added 36 thousand jobs with 26.3 thousand more jobs in specialty trade contracting. Heavy and engineering construction added 6.3 thousand jobs. Residential construction gains were mostly offset by non-residential losses. Manufacturing had 15 thousand more jobs for January, a good month, although not as good as last month. All the gains came in durable goods jobs with 18 thousand new jobs set against a loss of 3 thousand non-durable goods jobs. Machinery manufacturing topped all manufacturing categories with 5.4 thousand new jobs.

Government service employment was up a net 4 thousand seasonally adjusted jobs for January. The federal government added 5 thousand jobs and local government another 10 thousand including public education to offset a decline of 11 thousand jobs in state government. State government excluding education dropped 9.9 thousand jobs offset by a gain of 9.8 thousand jobs in local government, also excluding education. Both state and local public education lost jobs, although only a combined loss of 500 jobs. Private education was up 11.7 thousand jobs, making a combined increase of 11.2 thousand jobs in education for January.

Leisure and hospitality took first place for job gains in January with 35 thousand new jobs. Restaurants accounted for 89 percent, or 31.1 thousand, of the new leisure and hospitality jobs. The arts, entertainment and recreation sub sector added a net of 2.3 thousand jobs from gains in amusements, gambling and recreation offset with job losses in performing arts and spectator sports. Accommodations added 1.4 thousand new jobs.

Health care had 26 thousand more jobs with more jobs in all four sub-sectors. Ambulatory care had 7.7 thousand new jobs; hospital jobs another 12.7 thousand; social assistance 5.2 thousand new jobs; nursing and residential care barely came out ahead with 200 more jobs. The January growth rate in health care employment was 1.57 percent, well below the long term average of 2.31 percent.

Trade, transportation and utilities did much better for January after job losses last month adding a total of 34 thousand jobs. Both Wholesale and retail trade and transportation had job gains: wholesale trade added 9.8 thousand jobs; retail another 15.4 thousand jobs. In retail, clothing and clothing accessory stores did well in January. Transportation had 11.1 thousand new jobs with 4.9 thousand of those jobs in courier and messenger services and 5.3 thousand more jobs in warehousing and storage. Small gains in truck transportation offset smaller losses in air, water and public transit transportation for a small net gain of jobs in modal transportation. Utilities dropped 1.4 thousand jobs.

Professional and business services had 23 thousand more jobs, well below the usual range of new jobs. The professional and technical service sub sector had a modest increase of 7.5 thousand jobs. Management of companies dropped 200 jobs; administration and support services including waste management had a net increase of 14.6 thousand jobs, a small increase for this sub sector and less than last month.

Accounting and bookkeeping services dropped 10.1 thousand jobs after last month's large increase. Other professional and technical services had modest gains. Computer design and related services added 4.5 thousand new jobs, better than last month but still a small increase; management and technical consulting added 4.6 thousand jobs; architecture and engineering services another 3.9 thousand jobs. Among administrative and support services, business support added 5.9 thousand jobs; employment services another 5.7 thousand jobs, a smaller than normal increase.

Information services returned to a normal decrease in jobs, down 6 thousand jobs for January. Data processing and hosting services had a small job gain but remaining sub sectors had job losses. The biggest loss came in motion picture and sound recording, down 2.3 thousand jobs.

Financial activities added a net of 9 thousand jobs with finance and insurance adding 2.1 thousand jobs and real estate and rental and leasing services picking up a combined 6.5 thousand. Insurance lost 1.7 thousand jobs for January, an unusual decline. The category, other services had 6 thousand new jobs. Personal and laundry services added 5.8 thousand jobs; non-profit associations picked up 1.7 thousand jobs, less than last month and less than usual. Repair and maintenance services had a small job loss.

Establishment employment was up 200 thousand in January to 147.810 million jobs, a bigger gain than last month and in the good range, but not great. The annual growth rate inched up to 1.63 percent. The goods production sector did well this month, but except for leisure and hospitality private service providing employment did below normal. Health care and professional and business services did well below par. All in all not bad, but I would call it toward the bottom of the good range.


January Details

Non Farm Total +200
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Non-Farm employment for establishments increased from December by 200 thousand jobs for a(n) January total of 147.810 million. (Note 1 below) An increase of 200 thousand each month for the next 12 months represents an annual growth rate of +1.63%. The annual growth rate from a year ago beginning January 2017 was +1.45%; the average annual growth rate from 5 years ago beginning January 2013 was +1.79%; from 15 years ago beginning January 2003 it was .83%. 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 +6
Natural Resources jobs including logging and mining were up 6 thousand from December at 704 thousand jobs in January. An increase of 6 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +10.32 percent. Natural resource jobs are up 58 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 .5 percent of establishment jobs.

2. Construction +36
Construction jobs were up 36 thousand from December with 7.099 million jobs in January. An increase of 36 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +6.12 percent. Construction jobs are up 226 thousand for the 12 months just ended. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +4.34%. Construction jobs rank 9th among the 12 sectors with 4.7 percent of non-farm employment.

3. Manufacturing +15
Manufacturing jobs were up 15 thousand from December with 12.555 million jobs in January. An increase of 15 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.44 percent. Manufacturing jobs were up for the last 12 months by 186 thousand. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +.94%; for the last 15 years by -1.12%. In 1994, manufacturing ranked 2nd but now ranks 6th among 12 major sectors in the economy with 8.5 percent of establishment jobs.

4. Trade, Transportation & Utility +34
Trade, both wholesale and retail, transportation and utility employment was up 34 thousand from December at 27.633 million jobs in January. An increase of 34 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.48 percent. Jobs are up by 183 thousand for the last 12 months. Growth rates for the last 5 years are +1.48 percent. Jobs in these sectors rank first as the biggest sectors with combined employment of 18.7 percent of total establishment employment.

5. Information Services -6
Information Services employment was down 6 thousand from December at 2.773 million jobs in January. A decrease of 6 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -2.59 percent. (Note 2 below) Jobs are down by 37 thousand for the last 12 months. Information jobs reached 3.7 million at the end of 2000, but started dropping, reaching 3 million by 2004, but now holds in the 2.7 million range. Information Services is a small sector ranking 11th of 12 with 1.9 percent of establishment jobs.

6. Financial Activities +9
Financial Activities jobs were up 9 thousand from December at 8.518 million in January. An increase of 9 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of + 1.27 percent. Jobs are up 121 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 +1.68 percent, and a 15 year growth rate of +.40 percent. Financial activities rank 8 of 12 with 5.8 percent of establishment jobs.

7. Business & Professional Services +23
Business and Professional Service jobs went up 23 thousand from December to 20.694 million in January. An increase of 23 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.34 percent. Jobs are up 448 thousand for the last 12 months. Note 4 The annual growth rate for the last 5 years was 2.59 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 14.2 percent of establishment employment.

8. Education including public and private +11
Education jobs went up 11 thousand jobs from December at 14.105 million in January. These include public and private education. An increase of 11 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of+.95 percent. Jobs are up 102 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 5) The 15 year growth rate equals +.74 percent, slower than the national average. Education ranks 4th among 12 sectors with 9.6 percent of establishment jobs.

9. Health Care +26
Health care jobs were up 26 thousand from December to 19.715 million in January. An increase of 26 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.57 percent. Jobs are up 383 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 +1.91 percent. Health care has been growing at +2.31 percent annual rate for the last 15 years, a rate greater than the national rate. Health care ranks 3rd of 12 with 13.3 percent of establishment jobs.

10. Leisure and hospitality +35
Leisure and hospitality jobs went up 35 thousand from December to 16.248 million in January. An increase of 35 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.59 percent. Jobs are up 342 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 7) The 5 year growth rate is 2.98%. 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 10.9 percent of establishment jobs. It moved up from 7th in the 1990's to 5th in the last few years.

11. Other +6
Other Service jobs, which include repair, maintenance, personal services and non-profit organizations went up 6 thousand from December to 5.831 million jobs in January. An increase of 6 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.24 percent. Jobs are up 102 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 8) Other services had +.51 percent growth for the last 15 years. These sectors rank 10th of 12 with 3.9 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.

12. Government, excluding education +4
Government service employment was up 4 thousand from December to 11.935 million jobs in January. An increase of 4 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +.49 percent. Jobs are up 5 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 +.15 percent. Government, excluding education, ranks 7th of 12 with 8.1 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


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Delivering Groceries

Delivering Groceries – Another low wage job

Most of us drive a mile or two for our weekly trip to the grocery store, but more and more stores have started offering pick-up and delivery services. In a recent piece in the Washington Post [“Amazon offers free Whole Foods delivery to Prime Members in 4 U.S. Cities” WP, February 9, 2018] author Abha Bhattarai quotes a supermarket analyst David Livingston: “Nearly every chain that plans on being in business in five years is moving to delivery.”

Bhattarai cites some of the challenges. “Grocery stores aren’t warehouses, so it often takes reconfiguring to efficiently find and package fresh food for delivery. And then there’s the issue of keeping cold items cold and frozen foods frozen.” The where and how of a delivery system continues to be a subject for experimenting, but everyone agrees delivery is a pricey business.

The growing use of grocery delivery services reflects the growing disparity of profits and wages. The well to do already support services that suggest growth of discretionary income as part of a growing suburban affluence. Jobs at golf and country clubs have a growth rate more than double the national rate as do recreational sports centers, nail salons, pet care services and landscaping services; perhaps jobs as delivery drivers at grocery stores will be provide some more replacement jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 426.3 thousand jobs as delivery drivers in 2016, their latest occupational total. The total is up from the year 2000 when 373.7 thousand worked as delivery drivers, an average increase of 3,291 a year at an annual rate of growth of .83 percent. A little over 41 percent of delivery drivers work in wholesale or retail trade, although more work at pharmacies than grocery stores.

The median wage for delivery drivers in 2016 was $10.98 an hour or $22,830 a year. Like so many jobs though the wage has not kept up with inflation. To keep up with rising prices the 2000 median wage of $20,360 would need to be $28,377.61 in 2016 just to have the same buying power. Instead it was $22,830, a 19.55 percent loss of real wages.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the 2016 median wage for delivery drivers of $10.98 is only $.05 cents an hour higher than it was in 2009 when it was $10.93 an hour even though employment is going up. To keep up with rising prices the 2009 median wage would need to be $25,451.56 in 2016 just to maintain buying power. Instead $22,740 is a 10.3 percent loss of real wages over the eight years.

If the median wage for delivery drivers kept up with inflation for the last nine years it would hardly a living wage. Grocery delivery reflects opportunities in a country like the United States with extreme income and wealth inequality that creates low wage and low skill jobs providing personal services to the rich. It’s not the working of free markets; it’s a deliberate policy of Trump and Congress.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Labor Under Fire

Timothy J. Minchin, Labor Under Fire: A History of the AFL-CIO Since 1979, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), 314 pages

In his new book Labor Under Fire author Timothy Minchin tells readers he intends to provide “the first general history of the AFL-CIO in the turbulent era after Meany’s retirement, a time when the Federation operated in a hostile political and economic climate.” George Meany retired in 1979 after 24 years as the first and only President of the AFL-CIO; Lane Kirkland took over as president in November 1979.

After an introductory section, ten chapters and a brief epilogue follow. The opening chapter provides a review of the 1955-1979 Meany era, which readers will find stands in stark contrast to the nine chapters that cover the years after 1979.

The Meany era review recounts the details of the 1955 merger, the Meany feud with Walter Reuther, his stand on corruption and the Teamsters, his anti-Communist views and support for the Vietnam war. Those around him called him “tough as nails” except as Minchin notes he served as political schmoozer and chief lobbyist for the “People’s Lobby.” He showed little interest in organizing.

Lane Kirkland took over as AFL-CIO president a little over half way into the Carter administration. The Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, which made the Carter years, years of opportunity. Carter remained friendly and accessible to labor but did next to nothing to help. Meany and then Kirkland pushed to correct the serious defects in the National Labor Relations Act, but it was a lost opportunity that Carter did not care about or perhaps understand.

Minchin does not dwell on Carter, but moves on to the Reagan election and the expected difficulties of a Reagan administration. The second chapter gives details of the decision and planning for Labor Solidarity Day on the National Mall, September 19, 1981. Chapter 3 goes through the details of the day and assessment of its significance with commentary by many of those who planned and took part in it. These chapters include the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike and its significance in the 1980’s decline in labor relations. Minchin mentions all of the major strikes of the era – Phelps-Dodge, Hormel, Pittston Coal, International Paper.

The next two chapters continue with the Reagan years and Kirkland’s efforts to unify the labor movement in constructive resistance to the Reagan onslaught. Minchin narrates Executive Council meetings and such topics as the need to involve more women and minorities in top level positions, and the early debate over organizing effort.

In the fifth chapter Minchin writes “Throughout Reagan’s second term, there was little good news for labor.” Actually the Reagan first term did not go too well either. He appointed people hostile to labor such as important posts on the National Labor Relations Board and the Secretary of Labor.

George H. W. Bush won the 1988 presidential election. By now a majority of the labor vote returned to the Democratic Party but not enough to get Michael Dukakis in office. Kirkland found the Bush Administration “a little more civilized than Reagan’s.” He made Elizabeth Dole Secretary of Labor and she intervened to mediate the Pittston Coal strike, but Bush could not bring himself to support an increase in the minimum wage and he started the ball rolling on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Business in the 1980’s more fully exploited their ability to fire and replace strikers and so Kirkland and the Executive Council pushed an “Anti-Striker Replacement Act, but it did not pass.

Democrat Bill Clinton entered the White House in January 1993. The next three chapters narrate organized labor in the eight Clinton years, years of hope and Democratic fumbling. Clinton had majority control of Congress with 57 Democrats in the Senate to start his presidency and like Carter before him failed to help labor in significant ways, which Minchin narrates in considerable detail. Clinton did not get a complicated hard to sell Health Care Bill passed; took the business side to pass George Bush’s NAFTA law over strong labor objections; failed another try to pass a Striker Replacement Bill. I have always thought of Bill Clinton as a smart, well educated and well meaning politician, except he wanted to be accepted in the social circles of the rich and privileged people he desperately needed to regulate.

The Democrats lost the House of Representatives to the Newt Gingrich Republicans in 1994, which brought internal incrimination and fighting into AFL-CIO politics. Minchin devotes most of Chapter 8 to the pressures on Lane Kirkland and contentious debate over organizing and the need for change. John Sweeney was the leader of the opposition who won a divisive election to be AFL-CIO president October 25, 1995. Minchin narrates the twists and turns of a hard fought and divisive campaign.

Sweeney brought optimism to the last years of the Clinton Administration and worked to use AFL-CIO resources in the interests of the working class. A big increase in organizing efforts in service industries helped stem the tide of loss in manufacturing, but business fought unions as hard as ever. George W. Bush took the 2000 election, even though AFL-CIO efforts turned out a large labor vote. The Supreme Court interference and failure to count the Florida vote made the loss tougher. Minchin quotes chief of staff Bob Welsh “We never met with Bush. I mean he was on another planet.”

Bush got a political boost of popularity from the events of 9/11 and like the Reagan administration made important appointments of people hostile to labor who showed little respect for law much less labor. The disappointments brought more divisions in the labor movement. In 2005 Andy Stern formed an opposition group “Change to Win” that diverted Sweeney efforts, which are covered in detail.

Sweeney retired in 2009 and former United Mine Workers president and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, Richard Trumka, took over without a challenger. Minchin compiles and narrates many insider opinions to evaluate the Sweeney era before going into the early years of Trumka as AFL-CIO president.

The final pages of the book narrate Trumka changes and the first Obama election where the AFL-CIO played a major role in his election to over racial hesitations. Trumka provided AFL-CIO support to the “Occupy Wall Street” protest and pressed for labor law reform and national health care. Obama had two years with both houses of Congress, enough to get health care reform through the Congress, but not much else. The relentless attack on labor continues without relief. The book ends in Obama’s second term and with Richard Trumka fighting for the labor agenda.

Early in the book Minchin quotes a retired AFL-CIO staff. “The AFL-CIO has always had to fight. We’ve always had to defend.” Labor Under Fire captures that sad dilemma. The book keeps a tight focus on the AFL-CIO as promised. It is well organized, the writing flows easily in narrative fashion and without “academize.” One clear advantage comes by using many quotations from news commentary, AFL-CIO proceedings and notes, and from interviews. Minchin lets the actions, impressions and opinions of participants carry the story, a decided advantage in my view. Readers get a good feel for the skills and character - advantages - disadvantages - of the major figures from organized labor in the era: Lane Kirkland, Tom Donahue, John Sweeney, Andy Stern, Richard Trumka. Numbered footnotes document sources followed by a thorough bibliography.

Minchin effects a gently positive tone for an era with troubling years of labor decline. I did not feel much optimism, but there is respect for labor and labor leaders and the troubles they are forced to confront. Inequality continues to get worse as labor continues to flounder, but in Labor Under Fire there is still hope.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Immigration or Stagnation

Immigration or Stagnation

In a recent Washington Post editorial [Immigration or Stagnation, Washington Post, 1-29-18] Fred Hiatt asserts Republicans can be pro-growth or anti-immigration, but not both. Growth, then, needs immigrants, which is why he thinks “we should remain open to immigration.”

In his discussion Hiatt offers four “big, complicated” rhetorical questions about immigration. One is “How much effort should be devoted to tracking down the undocumented, and how much to punishing companies that hire them?” However, I do not believe those millions of undocumented immigrants came to the U.S. for the beautiful view. They came here for a job and so I would like for Mr. Hiatt to cite one case of a U.S. employer charged, prosecuted and convicted of hiring an undocumented alien. May be there are two, or ten or a hundred stacked up against 11 million undocumented immigrants? Does ICE investigate Corporate America?

While I happen to agree with Mr. Hiatt that immigrants have contributed to economic growth, favoring growth would not normally be an immigration issue. Business demands cheap immigrant labor that works for a pittance, and they do not mind them having no legal or voting rights.

Corporate America also knows the Republican Party needs the votes of the hate peddling bigots who want to deport them all. Well, if Republicans cannot be pro-growth and anti-immigration, neither can they be anti--immigration and ethical citizens favoring equality of rights while remaining silent. Corporate America could be pro-immigration and be ethical citizens but so far they let their toadies in Congress and Trump feed the bigotry and look the other way.

Friday, January 26, 2018

America had nothing for me

America had nothing for me

Mexico City, January 26, 2018 --- Ariel Rodriguez tells the Washington Post that he and his family are now home in Mexico City. He finished a B.A. Degree after 10 years working and studying in the United States. He spoke of Trump and his “negative rhetoric about undocumented people” and enforcement agents, sometimes separating children who were full US citizens from parents.” … “I was reminded daily that I did not belong – reminded by the news, reminded by Trump supporters chanting about the wall, reminded by the president himself. … “The way I see it, this loss is mutual: I lost the chance to have a life in America. America has lost the chance to have me.”

Lawrence, Massachusetts, February 17, 1912 --- Italian textile mill worker Arturo Massavi told a reporter today he is leaving the United States to return home to Italy. “We were urged to come here by posters spread throughout Italy by the American Woolen Company, describing how mill owners will treat us like their own children. … We were treated like dogs. Our Italy is bad but your country’s textile mills are worse.”

You figure it out!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Fight the Gas Tax

Fight the Gas Tax

The Chamber of Commerce announced last week that it wants to have an additional $.25 a gallon gas tax to fund “infra structure” projects. This comes almost immediately after the same Chamber of Commerce and its corporate members and promoters engineered giant multi-billion dollar corporate tax cuts and more multi-billion dollar personal income tax cuts. Both changes deliberately intend to transfer billions of dollars to the rich who earn their income with dividends and capital gains rather than wages.

A $.25 a gallon tax is steeply regressive and guarantees those with modest wage income will pay a higher percentage of their income in gas tax than the rich with their bloated incomes and new lower tax rates. It punishes and penalizes the working class who get to work driving and rarely have alternatives in public transportation. It further lines the pockets of contractors to pour cement with profits from cost plus work awarded by an indulgent Congress.

It is especially depressing coming as it does immediately after billions of dollars of favors already bestowed on the rich in a lopsided economy already burdened with a crude income inequality. It suggests there is no limit to how far, or how often, the privileged rich will to push the working class into a lower economic status.

I think of Republicans as no more than a band of pickpockets.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fast-food and the Risk to Jobs

Fast-food and the Risk to Jobs

A recent Washington Post article [Caitlin Dewey, “For fast-food franchises, price cuts hard to digest” WP 12-29-17] describes the problems corporate franchisers like Subway and McDonalds cause their franchise holders by declaring promotional discounts on key parts of their menu. Discounts please the board of directors who want more revenue but squeeze the profits out of franchisees that face rising costs.

From 2015 to 2016 jobs at food services and drinking places increased by 367.9 thousand jobs as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Full service restaurants and fast food restaurants had a combined 309 thousand new jobs, which were split almost evenly between them. Except for a slight pause during the 2008-2010 recession these jobs have increased every year since 1990. Full service restaurants have 5.4 million jobs; limited service fast food 4.3 million jobs. That would be consistent with the article’s citation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture data reporting 18 thousand new fast food restaurants between 2009 and 2014.

There was no mention of the risk to the economy if restaurant and fast food expansion comes to a halt. Those 367.9 thousand new jobs I mentioned above make up just under 15 percent of the country’s new jobs for the year.

The fast-food industry fusses about wage costs going up over the last ten years, 2006-2016, and higher minimum wages in 29 states, but occupational employment survey data shows modest increases. The hourly median wage for fast food cooks (#35-2011) over the same 10 year period increased from $7.41 to $9.55 and hour. If the 2006 wage of $7.41 increased at exactly the rate of inflation until 2016 it would be $8.82 an hour instead of $9.55. Fast food cooks got an annual average of 2.57 percent increase in wages when the inflation rate was 1.76 percent a year. The modest increase in buying power from 2006 to 2016 applies to the median wage, which may not be the starting wage in an industry with a high turnover rate.

Looking at the state files I find only one state, Washington, with a median wage for fast food cooks more than $12 an hour, which represents 1 percent of national employment of fast food cooks.

Three states Hawaii, Massachusetts and North Dakota have a median wage for fast food cooks more than $11 an hour and less than $12 and hour, which represents 2.1 percent of fast food cooks.

Five states with Alaska, California, DC, Oregon and Vermont have a median wage for fast food cooks more than $10 an hour and less than $11. California has 19.8 percent of nationwide fast food cooks with a median wage of $10.54 an hour.

Twenty-five states pay more than $9 and less than $10, which is 40.8 percent of nationwide jobs for fast food cooks; the remaining 17 states pay less than $9 an hour, which is 31.4 percent of the national jobs for fast food cooks.

The WP article reports that year over year sales at fast food restaurants and fast-casual chains have fallen dramatically over the past two years, suggesting saturation levels of new chains and franchisees. Rather than have price cutting promotions they might consider raising prices. Remember price cuts can only increase revenue if sales increase by a larger percentage than the price decrease, no guarantee in market filled with new competition.

During the ten years from 2006 to 2016 the number of fast food cooks declined from 612 thousand to 513 thousand in 2016, helping to increase the surplus of labor for low wage jobs. The news media likes to report on job growth and lately about a shortage of jobs without mention that so many new jobs have low wages, especially in fast food. The fast food industry could change that given those higher wages franchisees now have to pay. Instead of helping to contribute new jobs in low wage occupations, the fast food industry may not generate new jobs at all.