Sunday, December 31, 2017

Labor Line

June 2017___________________________________

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 June 2, 2017.

American Job Market The Chronicle

Current Job and Employment Data

Total Non-Farm Establishment Jobs up 138,000 to 146,135,000
Total Private Jobs up 147,000 to 123,831,000
Total Government Employment down 9,000 to 22,304,000

Employment Note
Civilian Non-Institutional Population up 179,000 to 254,767,000
Civilian Labor Force down 429,000 to 159,784,000
Employed down 233,000 to 152,923,000
Employed Men down 129,000 to 81,290,000
Employed Women down 104,000 to 71,633,000
Unemployed down 195,000 to 6,861,000
Not in the Labor Force up 608,000 to 94,983,000

Unemployment Rate was down .1 % to 4.3% or 6,861/159,784
Labor Force Participation Rate was down .2% to 62.7%, or 159,784/254,767

Prices and inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all Urban Consumers was up by a monthly average of 1.26 percent for 2016.

The June CPI report for the 12 months ending with May, shows the

CPI for All Items was up 1.9%
CPI for Food and Beverages was up .9%
CPI for Housing was up 3.1%
CPI for Apparel was down .9%
CPI for Transportation including gasoline was up 1.8%
CPI for Medical Care was up 2.6%
CPI for Recreation was up .9%
CPI for Education was up 2.3%
CPI for Communication was down 6.3%

This Month’s Establishment Jobs Press Report


The Bureau of Labor Statistics published its June report for jobs in May. The labor force took a sharp drop for May, off 429 thousand as both employed and the unemployed left work or quit looking for a job. Those not in the labor force jumped 608 thousand, a number that should go down if there is healthy growth in employment. The decrease in the unemployed of 195 thousand dominated the decrease in the labor force, which caused a small decrease in the unemployment rate of .1 percent to 4.3 percent. The labor force participation rate dropped .2 percent to 62.7 percent.

The seasonally adjusted total of establishment employment was up 138 thousand for May. The increase was a total of 131 thousand more private service sector jobs and 16 thousand more jobs in goods production employment. The 147 thousand private sector jobs total combined with a decrease of 9 thousand government service jobs accounts for the total increase.

Goods production had a modest increase of 16 thousand jobs for May. Natural resources added 6 thousand jobs because of 7.9 thousand new jobs in support activities in mining offset small job losses in mining and natural gas. Construction jobs improved a seasonally adjusted 11 thousand for May, another modest month. Heavy and engineering construction employment had most of the new jobs: 7.2 thousand. Construction of buildings added 5.5 thousand among other small job losses. Manufacturing dropped a thousand jobs, after last month’s modest gains. There were 2 thousand new jobs in durable manufacturing offsetting a loss of 3 thousand non-durable goods. Automobile production was off slightly.

Government service employment lost 9 thousand jobs, even though the federal government picked up 8.2 thousand jobs; most of the increase came at the Post Office, up a seasonally adjusted 7 thousand jobs. Both state and local government lost jobs, down a combined 15 thousand. Both state and local public education also lost jobs, which accounted for 10.4 thousand of the jobs lost in government. Private education was up 14.7 thousand jobs, which combined with the decrease in public education left a net of 4.3 thousand new education jobs.

Professional and business services had the biggest increase in service employment for May, adding 38 thousand new jobs. The professional and technical service sub sector picked up 10.9 thousand jobs of the total increase, management of companies added 1.7 thousand jobs with administration and support services including waste management adding a net of 25.2 thousand jobs.

Among professional and technical services only management and technical consulting did well with 6.4 thousand new jobs. The category, Other Professional Services, added 4.8 thousand jobs, which is predominantly veterinary services. Computer systems design and related services actually lost a few hundred jobs for May, a rare occurrence. Among administrative and support services, Employment services, mostly temporary help services, added 14.2 thousand jobs with services to buildings and dwellings in second place with 6.4 thousand new jobs among other small gains and losses.

Health Care added 32 thousand jobs and again this month with gains in all four major sub-sectors. Ambulatory care added 12.6 thousand new jobs; hospital employment added 7.4 thousand jobs. Nursing and residential care employment jobs were up 4.3 thousand, but mostly at residential care rather than nursing care. The social assistance sub sector did well with 8 thousand new jobs after last month’s even bigger increase. The May growth rate in health care employment was 2.0 percent, below the fifteen year trend of 2.36 percent.

Leisure and hospitality added 31 thousand new jobs, a modest gain and less than last month. Arts, entertainment and recreation declined 2.2 thousand new jobs for May, with amusements, gambling and recreation off 5 thousand jobs. Food services and restaurants added 30.3 thousand jobs and accommodations added another 2.7 thousand jobs. The restaurant increase is more typical, while accommodation employment does not typically increase month to month.

Trade, Transportation and Utilities did poorly dropping 6 thousand jobs, a major sector that has not done well over the last six months. Both wholesale and retail lost jobs last month: wholesale down 2.1, retail down 6.1 thousand. There was a little help from transportation with a net gain of only 3.6 thousand jobs, mostly in transit jobs and other ground transportation. Utilities picked lost 1.3 thousand jobs, a sub sector in general job decline.

Information services dropped another 2 thousand jobs, with small losses for jobs in motion picture and sound recording, in broadcasting except Internet, and in telecommunications. Financial activities had another good month, although not as good as last month, adding 11 thousand new jobs. Credit intermediation and banking had the most new jobs: 4.7 thousand. Real estate and rental leasing added 4.4 thousand new jobs for May.

The category, other services, added 12 thousand jobs, even better than last month, with gains for all three sub sectors,. Non-profit organizations had most of the jobs from the three sub sectors with 7.4 thousand new jobs. Personal and laundry services added 4.0 thousand jobs, a larger than average increase; repair and maintenance services added 800 jobs.

The establishment employment was up 138 thousand at an annual growth rate of 1.13 percent, a return to slow and sluggish job growth for May. The long term growth rate of establishment employment has stayed low year after year. It is only .75 percent, well below population growth. There is no sign of improvement in the manufacturing sector. This month continues the slow transformation of education employment. In 1990 private education employment was 18.1 percent of total education employment – private and public – but in 2016 private education employment was up to 25.6 percent.


May Details

Non Farm Total +138
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Non-Farm employment for establishments increased from April by 138 thousand jobs for a(n) May total of 146.135 million. (Note 1 below) An increase of 138 thousand each month for the next 12 months represents an annual growth rate of 1.13%. The annual growth rate from a year ago beginning May 2016 was +1.58%; the average annual growth rate from 5 years ago beginning May 2012 was +1.76%; from 15 years ago beginning May 2002 it was .75%. 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 April at 706 thousand jobs in May. An increase of 6 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +10.29 percent. Natural resource jobs are up 32 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 +11
Construction jobs were up 11 thousand from April with 6.881 million jobs in May. An increase of 11 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.92 percent. Construction jobs are up 191 thousand for the 12 months just ended. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +4.18%. Construction jobs rank 9th among the 12 sectors with 4.6 percent of non-farm employment.

3. Manufacturing -1
Manufacturing jobs were down 1 thousand from April with 12.398 million jobs in May. A decrease of 1 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -.10 percent. Manufacturing jobs were up for the last 12 months by 63 thousand. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +.77%; for the last 15 years by
-1.41%. 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 -6
Trade, both wholesale and retail, transportation and utility employment was down 6 thousand from April at 27,346 million jobs in May. A decrease of 6 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -.26 percent. Jobs are up by 159 thousand for the last 12 months. Growth rates for the last 5 years are +1.44 percent. Jobs in these sectors rank first as the biggest sectors with combined employment of 18.9 percent of total establishment employment.

5. Information Services -2
Information Services employment were down 2 thousand from April at 2.723 million jobs in May. A decrease of 2 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -.88 percent. (Note 2 below) Jobs are down by 16 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 creeps up to the 2.75 million range. Information Services is a small sector ranking 11th of 12 with 1.9 percent of establishment jobs.

6. Financial Activities +11
Financial Activities jobs were up 11 thousand from April at 8.428 million in May. An increase of 11 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of + 1.57 percent. Jobs are up 165 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 +1.61 percent, and a 15 year growth rate of +.41 percent. Financial activities rank 8 of 12 with 5.8 percent of establishment jobs.

7. Business & Professional Services +38
Business and Professional Service jobs went up 38 thousand from April to 20.644 million in May. An increase of 38 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.21 percent. Jobs are up 622 thousand for the last 12 months. Note 4 The annual growth rate for the last 5 years was 2.94 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 14.1 percent of establishment employment.

8. Education including public and private +8
Education jobs went up 8 thousand jobs from April at 14.018 million in May. These include public and private education. An increase of 8 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +.64 percent. Jobs are up 143 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 5) The 15 year growth rate equals +.75 percent, slower than the national average. Education ranks 4th among 12 sectors with 9.6 percent of establishment jobs.

9. Health Care +32
Health care jobs were up 32 thousand from April to 19.424 million in May. An increase of 32 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.0 percent. Jobs are up 437 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 +2.30 percent. Health care has been growing at +2.36 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 +31
Leisure and hospitality jobs went up 31 thousand from April to 15.892 million in May. An increase of 31 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.35 percent. Jobs are up 331 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 7) The 5 year growth rate is 3.01%. 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 10.8 percent of establishment jobs. It moved up from 7th in the 1990’s to 5th in the last few years.

11. Other +12
Other Service jobs, which include repair, maintenance, personal services and non-profit organizations went up 12 thousand from April to 5.744 million jobs in May. An increase of 12 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.51 percent. Jobs are up 77 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 8) Other services had +1.18 percent growth for the last 5 years. These sectors rank 10th of 12 with 3.9 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.

12. Government, excluding education -2
Government service employment was down 2 thousand from April to 11.930 million jobs in May. A decrease of 2 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -.24 percent. Jobs are up 61 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 +.17 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, June 8, 2017

Oklahoma Republicans Cut School Budgets

Oklahoma Republicans Cut School Budgets

Recently the Washington Post described a deepening budget crisis in the Oklahoma public schools. [Cuts push many Okla. schools to four-day week, WP, 5/28/17] Budget cuts have eliminated funds for art, foreign language, textbooks and cut the school week to four days for 96 of 513 school districts with 44 planning a four day week in the fall.

The hardship comes from deliberate cuts in State income taxes as the article mentions: “School districts staring down deep budget holes have turned to shorter weeks in desperation as a way to save a little bit of money and persuade increasingly hard-to-find teachers to take some of the nation’s lowest-paying jobs.” Republicans have controlled the Oklahoma legislature since 2009 with a Republican governor since 2011. Since then they have cut income taxes and also significantly lowered taxes on oil and gas production to “pay for” education cuts.

Oklahoma teachers do not have some of the lowest paid teachers in the United States, they have the lowest paid teachers in the United States as I found out looking at the Occupational Employment Survey data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Oklahoma pre-schoolteachers have a 2016 median wage of $32,240; kindergarten teachers have a median wage of $38,190, elementary teachers $38,830, middle school teachers $40,290 and high school teachers $40,780. There are thirty five states and the District of Columbia that pay high school teachers with a median wage above $50,000 and sixteen states have median wages above $70,000. One Oklahoma elementary school teacher interviewed by the Washington Post earns $39,350 after 18-years in the classroom.

The median wage for elementary school teachers in Oklahoma in 2006 was $34,430. If the median wage increased by the amount of inflation between 2006 and 2016 the wage would be $40,989.96. Instead it was $38,830 as mentioned above, which equals a 5.27 percent decrease in buying power for elementary school teachers. Inflation; silent but deadly.

It gets worse. During the period from 2000 to 2016 the Oklahoma State population increased from 3.4 million to 3.9 million, but the total number of teachers declined. In the year 2000 Oklahoma employed 57,220 teachers. By 2005 it was down to 52,870; by 2010 to 51,450; by 2016 to 48,790.

Private education employment as a percentage of combined private and public school employment for primary, secondary and post secondary education was 18.1 percent of monthly employment in 1990, using Bureau of Labor Statistics establishment data. It has slowly but surely increased to 25.6 percent by 2016, a 7.5 percent increase. Funding cuts for public schools continue as part of a relentless, long term Republican Party campaign to make education a privilege of the rich and the well-to-do. It is the same plan Republicans have for health care.

Every county in Oklahoma voted for Trump. His new Secretary of Education, DeVos, makes a relentless push for school vouchers to allow individuals the choice to pull their property taxes out of the public schools. Vouchers contribute funding to private schools that set tuition as they decide and accept or reject students as they wish. School choice plans and charter schools maintain public funding in the public schools, but vouchers compel the country to concede the Republican Party notion that education has no social or public benefits the wealthy should be expected to support.

Is that what voters and residents want in Oklahoma?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Jobs and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act

An economy equals the flow of transactions exchanging goods or services for money. Your weekly purchase of corn flakes supports production, income and employment back through the marketing chain starting with the farmer and ending with the cashier in the grocery store. The total flow of production in billions of transactions equals the Gross Domestic Production.

The million plus college students who take economics every year know the above phrasing as the circular flow of transactions, which brings a warning about the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid cuts. They threaten to eliminate billions of dollars of transactions and the production and employment that goes with it.

Make no mistake the recent Republican proposal repeals the Affordable Care Act(ACA) on top of $880 billion of estimated Medicaid cuts. The Obama version of the ACA required all insurers to offer at least one policy based on a national risk pool. A national risk pool spreads risk of illness and injury to everyone and assures no one can be excluded based on any definition of a preexisting condition. The Republican repeal eliminates the national risk pool and eliminates the controls on insurance charges that must go with it. It makes no difference if insurers must offer a policy to those with a preexisting condition if they can in turn charge whatever they want; they just price people out of insurance.

Charges for insurance were controlled under Obama Affordable Care, which the Republican repeal eliminates. Subsidies for the working poor based on income were funded with dedicated taxes, which the Republican repeal eliminates. Instead the Republican repeal offers a federal tax credit that will be useless without controls on charges. The $2,000 will become the minimum charge on the way up to whatever the traffic will bear, and the working poor do not have enough income to use a $2,000 of tax credit anyway.

If we assume the middle class can pay higher premiums for health insurance more dollars going to health care redirects spending and employment away from spending on consumer goods or from industries like leisure and hospitality. However, cuts in Medicaid, a service the working poor cannot afford, eliminate billions in transactions and the employment that goes with it.

Health care employment that includes ambulatory care, hospital care, nursing and residential care facilities, and social assistance services has just over 19 million jobs in the U.S. economy. Since 1990 health care generated 28 percent of new jobs or 9.72 million new jobs out of a total of 34.7 million new jobs. Last year in 2016 health care added 498 new jobs, more than any other industry sector or sub sector.

Leisure and hospitality – arts, entertainment, recreation including gambling, accommodations, food services and restaurants – was second for new jobs with 459 thousand more jobs, except the Trump administration has attacked foreign nationals and threatened foreign travel and tourism dimming the prospects for job growth here. Many of these jobs pay low wages anyway.

A third sector for new jobs came in professional and technical services that added 268.3 thousand new jobs, but well over half of them came in just two sub sectors: computer design and related services and management and technical consulting services. Administrative and support services added 200.3 thousand jobs in addition but over half of these jobs came in temporary help services, and services to buildings, especially landscaping.

A fourth sub sector for job growth was government services that added 194.1 thousand jobs, but almost all of them came at the local government level, much of it in primary and secondary public schools and Republicans attack government everyday.

The four sub sectors listed above accounted for two thirds of America’s new jobs last year with health care and leisure and hospitality by far the biggest gainers. The combined new jobs last year from all jobs in goods production – natural resources, construction, manufacturing - wholesale and retail trade, information services including Internet services, financial services including real estate and rental services, and personal services did not equal new jobs in health care alone. Given the prospects for job growth are limited to two industries and two professional sub sectors it does not appear smart to attack health care employment. That assumes Trump does not want a recession, which could be wrong.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


James Neff, Vendetta: Bobby Kennedy versus Jimmy Hoffa, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2015), 340 pages $28.00

In Vendetta journalist James Neff narrates the nearly ten year legal battle between Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) and Teamsters union boss James Riddle Hoffa that ended when Hoffa finally went to prison in 1967. Neff’s book retells a story told by many before him, but unsettled controversies allow new evidence and more interpretation of a long running debate. Were Hoffa and the Teamsters union a combination of evil and corruption taken over by gangsters, as Kennedy believed? Or did RFK use government authority to carry on a personal vendetta against Hoffa? Did politics subvert the law?

The book opens with a brief prologue to introduce readers to the two combatants by telling where they were and what they said after hearing the awful news of November 22, 1963. The sixteen chapters and brief epilogue that follow tells the story of RFK interrogating Hoffa as chief counsel of Senator John McClellan’s Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field – a.k.a. the McClellan Committee or the Rackets Committee - and then the second half of the story as Attorney General Robert Kennedy pursued his suspicion of Hoffa corruption with more indictments and finally two convictions.

Rackets Committee hearings started February 26, 1957 that included close to 300 days of testimony from 1,526 witnesses including repeated Hoffa appearances. RFK resigned from the Rackets Committee in September 1959 to run John Kennedy’s presidential campaign and partly from frustration since Hoffa survived the longest congressional investigation in history with a hundred government lawyers, investigators, accountants, and support staff providing evidence that failed to convict him of separate bribery, perjury and wiretapping charges. After John Kennedy was elected President and RFK became Attorney General, he resumed a relentless pursuit of Hoffa by setting up a special unit known as the “Get Hoffa Squad” intended to prosecute him and send him to prison.

Neff takes readers back and forth between RFK and Hoffa to fill in biographical and background material on union negotiating and politics of the 1950’s, but only as support for the primary narrative and the ethical and constitutional rights conflicts they illustrate. Narrative includes some discussion of Hoffa as a popular labor leader and Teamsters president who cared about his members and negotiated favorable contracts with better pay and benefits. Organized crime is also part of the story, as it has to be with Jimmy Hoffa.

An early one of the numerous conflicts in the Hoffa-Kennedy battles came soon after the Rackets Committee opened hearings, which Neff devotes an entire chapter to covering. Hoffa hired an attorney John Cheasty to spy on the Rackets Committee after getting a job as an investigator for the committee. Cheasty turned informer to Kennedy and then helped to conduct an FBI sting. On March 13, 1957 the FBI filmed Hoffa accepting an envelop of documents in exchange for a wad of cash in front of a Du Pont Circle hotel in Washington. He was arrested and indicted for bribery. In the famous press quote Kennedy told reporters he would jump off the capital if Hoffa was acquitted.
Hoffa’s attorney Edward Bennett Williams learned that RFK shared committee investigation reports with news reporters to help his committee get daily news coverage and advance stories favorable to Kennedy. During the trial Williams questioned how investigative reports given to Hoffa could be confidential if RFK handed them over to favored reporters.

Then Hoffa took the stand in his own defense and admitted he hired Cheasty, but as his lawyer to assist preparing for the committee hearings. Williams asked Hoffa if he knew how Cheasty got the documents. Hoffa testified “I got it from a fellow who is writing an article for the press. … It’s old material and it has been released to the press.”

RFK took a lot of ridicule when Hoffa was acquitted. Edward Bennett William’s complained that RFK turned a case into a personal competition. “He divided everyone up. There were the white hats and the black hats. If you weren’t for him, then you were against him. There was no middle ground.”

Neff covers the hearings and the charges that flowed from them, but Rackets committee evidence did not bring convictions. In March of 1964 after seven years and five trials of hung juries or acquittals it took the authority and unlimited money and power of the Justice Department to get a conviction for jury tampering growing out of petty misdemeanor claims from a conflict of interest violation of the Taft-Hartley Law. Fifteen years before in 1949 Hoffa established a truck leasing business in Nashville, Tennessee, the Test Fleet Corporation. Test Fleet leased trucks to some Teamsters employers. To Hoffa it was like a GM executive investing in a gas station, but RFK was so intent on getting Hoffa convicted of something a trial went forward in Nashville based on conflict of interest. Kennedy’s obsession with Hoffa left him oblivious to the damage he was doing to organized labor.

Evidence that Hoffa, or Teamsters operatives, attempted to bribe jurors in the Test Fleet case brought more serious charges in another trial in Chattanooga. This time Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering. As one attorney summed it up Hoffa turned a misdemeanor charge into a felony conviction.

Neff covers the Test Fleet trials thoroughly and then briefly covers a second indictment and conviction over the misuse of funds from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund, but Neff ends the story here. He takes a few more pages to wrap up the appeals process, going to prison, the Nixon pardon, Hoffa’s disputes with his successor Frank Fitzsimmons and the Hoffa disappearance on July 30, 1975.

The adversarial nature of some congressional hearings often raises questions of constitutional rights as it does with the Hoffa case. The Rackets Committee claimed the right to interrogate Hoffa and many others on the chance that some of them had committed a crime. Instead constitutional rights suggest there should be probable cause before the government investigates, which should be based on good assurance a crime had already occurred. Americans should not be expected to claim their Fifth Amendment rights without a criminal charge against them.

Vendetta reads easily in journalistic style while avoiding the potential for sanctimonious moralizing. It is well documented and makes reference to the many previous books and articles on Kennedy’s fight with Hoffa. The book has more to say about American criminal law and politics than it does about the two men; the book is not a biography of either one, or both. As with all books on the subject, Vendetta gives a clearer picture of Kennedy overreach than it does for Hoffa. The Mafia presence makes it hard to decide how much Hoffa controlled, or how much the Mafia controlled him. I find the evidence on Hoffa falls short and prevents drawing definitive conclusions about him: the correct mix of bad and good. He disappeared and the story ended and nearly everyone blames the Mafia; they’re not called the underworld for nothing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Retail Retrenchments

Retail Retrenchments

The Washington Post ran a story recently discussing the latest round of retail chain store closings. [For retail, bricks and mortar are crumbling, WP April 6, 2017] Payless Shoe Source has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and plans to close 400 stores immediately. Macy’s and Sears will vacate 28 million square feet of retail space. Staples hopes to find itself a buyer. The women’s clothing chain Bebe will close 21 stores. The Limited filed for bankruptcy and closed 250 stores. Ralph Lauren will close its Fifth Avenue Polo Store in New York.

Jobs in retail continue to go up but at a rate of increase so slow that its percentage share of America’s establishment jobs keeps dropping year after year. In 1990 retail trade had 12 percent of America’s establishment jobs; by 2017 it is down to 10.9 percent. That may not sound like much but the job total for 2016 would have 1.55 million more jobs if retail was still 12 percent of establishment employment. The slow increase assures that retail trade cannot be a source of replacement jobs for the roughly five million jobs lost in manufacturing where the percentage share of jobs have dropped from 16.2 percent in 1990 to 8.5 percent in 2017.

The Short Term

Retail jobs did relatively well in 2016 with a monthly average increase of 215.3 thousand new jobs and an average growth rate of 1.38 percent for the year, but still below the 1.74 percent national average for establishment jobs. However, 72 percent of the increase came in just four of twelve sub sectors with the increase among those four sub sectors dominated by new jobs in a few high growth industry groups. Motor vehicle and parts dealers added 52.6 thousand jobs with the highest growth rates for recreational vehicle dealers and used car dealers. Used car dealers had a one year growth rate of 5.54 percent; new cars 3.17 percent.

Building material and garden supply stores added 37.6 thousand jobs with the highest growth rates in nursery garden and farm supply stores and outdoor power equipment stores. Nursery garden and farm supply stores had a one year growth of 5.2 percent.

General merchandise stores picked up 39.5 thousand new jobs because warehouse clubs and super centers added 42.7 thousand jobs while department stores and discount department stores lost jobs. Warehouse clubs and super centers had a one year growth rate of 3.04 percent, more than twice the retail average.

Electronic shopping picked up 25.3 thousand new jobs in 2016. Firms like Amazon and other smaller firms doing electronic shopping had a 12.17 percent annual growth rate for 2016.

The total of 155 thousand new retail jobs in just four industries in 2016 leaves 60.3 thousand new jobs for all other retail trade. These other stores include furniture and home furnishings, electronic and appliances, food and beverages, health and personal care, gasoline stations including those with convenience stores, clothing and clothing accessories, sporting goods hobby book and music, florists, office supplies, stationary and gift stores and a few more. All had low or negative growth rates for 2016.

Long term

Long term growth rates for retail guarantee retail trade will be a declining share of national employment. The long term growth rate of retail employment measured since 1990 is just .7 percent, well below the national average for establishment jobs. Eight of the twelve sub sectors have growth rates less than one percent. Gasoline stations have a long term growth rate of .06 percent.

More ominous, electronic shopping has the highest growth rate for any retail industry over the 26 year period. It is 6.86 percent. Employment has shot up by more than triple since 2000, and more than doubled again after 2010. In spite of the high growth rate Internet shopping remains a small source of employment with 233.5 thousand jobs in 2016 and a .162 percent share of total national employment. The growth of electronic shopping cuts down on retail employment as you undoubtedly suspect.

Even though retail continues to be a large employer a low growth rate assures that new jobs in retail will be a smaller and smaller share of national employment. Electronic shopping only accelerates the decline. Retail trade can not help be a source of replacement jobs in the future.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Doctrinaire Paul Ryan – True Believer

Doctrinaire Paul Ryan – True Believer

A Washington Post editorial of March 16, 2017 quoted House Speaker Paul Ryan discussing the need to end the Affordable Care Act. With health care he said “You need to have an individual market where people care about what things cost, where people have real freedom, where those providers of health-care services, be they insurers, doctors or hospitals and everybody in between, compete against each other for our business based on value, based on price, based on quality, based on outcome.” . . . “We’re going to have a free market, and you buy what you want to buy.”

What Ryan said could be quoted from any college economics text of which I have read many in more than twenty years teaching university economics. Economics in American colleges walks a fine line between education and indoctrination; Mr. Ryan provides a doctrinaire rendition of textbook theory.

The need for health care varies with age, and depends on random risk of illness or injury. The expansion of private health insurance in the 1950’s caused problems with random risk. All free market insurance must have people pay premiums into a risk pool that generates a reserve fund to pay losses. Insurance companies employ mathematicians to analyze actuarial data on mortality: accidents, sickness, disability, retirement and other risks. Actuarial data are necessary to construct probability tables that will determine the premium payments to charge that will generate cash reserves to pay future losses.

Someone who already has heart disease or diabetes when they apply for insurance has a health problem, but they are not insurable in a free market private health care system because they are not a risk, they are a certainty. To use insurance jargon they have a pre-existing condition. In effect, their probability of loss is guaranteed and their premium would have to equal the cost of treatment to avoid draining the reserve fund.

In the early 1950’s insurance companies started marketing group policies in large numbers and defined a risk pool through the work place. People started buying health insurance and hence joining a risk pool through their employer. One trouble with a health care risk pool that depends on jobs comes at retirement, when people lose their employer sponsored health insurance. Age and the likelihood of pre-existing conditions assure it will be difficult or impossible for retirees to re-enter a risk pool and buy insurance.

A second trouble with a health care risk pool that depends on jobs is that not everyone has one, or has one they can keep until age 65 or into retirement. Layoffs and unemployment are not just loss of income, but removal from health insurance and a risk pool they may have entered long ago when they were young and healthy.

If everyone entered a common risk pool at birth and stayed in the same national risk pool until death then all Americans would share in the risks of all our injury and illness over their lifetime. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to accept a national risk pool by offering at least one policy at a price that reflects a risk pool started after birth and continued to death. Ending the funding for policies under the Affordable Care Act in effect terminates the national risk pool.

It does not matter if Congress leaves the requirement that prevents insurance companies from turning down applicants with preexisting conditions because they remain a certainty of loss, not an insurable risk; charges will have to cover the cost of known treatment.

Others without pre-existing conditions, who are not insured through government assistance or an employer risk pool, apply for insurance at the mercy of an insurance company, which can put them in whatever risk pool they choose and charge any price they want.

Private health insurance companies do not have the ability to define a national risk pool, nor the incentive to use a national risk pool when so much health insurance has tax subsidies available through employer risk pools. Health insurers have the incentive to assemble risk pools with the healthiest people they can find, and avoid the sick, those with pre-existing conditions and those with low wages unable to afford health care. The Republican plan to end the Affordable Care Act has an especially crude and unethical side when millions of Americans enjoy substantial tax subsidies through their employer sponsored health care. However, the 24 million the Congressional Budget Office thinks will lose coverage will still have to pay income taxes that subsidize other people’s health care, including Mr. Ryan.

There is nothing in an economic system of private markets and free competition that will move private health insurance to provide health care insurance for everyone. I cannot tell if Mr. Ryan knows free markets fail in health insurance or if he is a true believer in the capitalist secular religion. I do know leaders in positions of responsibility and power take steps to benefit the larger society. In health care leadership Mr. Ryan and the Republicans fail. So much for Trump helping the down and out in the working class.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Trump Job Fantasies

The Trump Job Fantasies

I notice claims made on various Internet sites that Donald Trump expects to create 25 million jobs. Assuming he means during his period in office over the next four years it is worthwhile explaining why that will not happen: why it is fantasy.

If the adult civilian population over the age of 16 continues to grow at the same annual rate as it has since 1990 America will add a little under 2.5 million people a year to the adult population. If every single one of them enters the labor force and finds a job that will be only 10 million jobs over four years. If people enter the labor force to look for work at the same labor force participation rate as the last eight years and they find jobs, then the increase of new jobs will be 6.6 million: far short of 25 million.

To have 25 million new jobs we need first to have 18.4 million more people enter the labor force in addition to normal population growth. That requires an increase in the labor force participation rate from its current 62.7 to 72.5 percent. My data files go back to 1950 and the labor force participation rate has never been that high. For most of that time it remained below 66 percent and the participation rate continues to decline as it has been for more than a decade.

Even if an unprecedented 25 million people enter the labor force it does not mean they will find jobs. Establishment employment has to grow as well and it will have to grow at rates not recorded since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started producing establishment data in 1939. The highest four year, or 48 month interval, of new jobs for every single month for data from 1939 to the present shows only five times with as many as 13 million new jobs. All five were in President Carters term of office in 1979.

Obama took office during a severe Bush recession but created 11.5 million jobs during his eight years. During the eight years of the Reagan Administration establishment employment increased by 16.1 million jobs; in the first Bush Administration establishment jobs increased by 2.7 million; in the Clinton Administration over eight years the increase was 22.9 million new jobs; in the second Bush administration George left office after eight years with just 1.3 million new jobs. The second Bush years had immense tax cuts that created a bubble of expansion, but accelerated income inequality and ended by hurting production and job growth.

Trump will not create 25 million jobs in four years. Republican threats to health care and education if carried out all but guarantee a failure to create more jobs, much less the fantasy millions Trump talks about.