Monday, December 4, 2017

A Tax Bill to Depress the Economy

A Tax Bill to Depress the Economy

The so-called tax bills just passed by the House and Senate will depress the economy, which is easy to understand.

Governments rapidly return all of their tax money to the economy for salaries, schools, health care, defense contractors, road building and plenty more. They tend to put tax money into the spending stream as it arrives generating spending for, and income to, millions of people widely dispersed in all the states. Federal tax money tends to be spent in the United States and therefore supports the domestic economy.

To cut taxes by billions and billions to enrich a small number of people and corporations with no need to return that buying power to the spending stream guarantees a slowdown. A look at annual Corporate 10K reports often finds billions sitting as cash in liquid accounts. Corporations are slow to return revenues and profits to the spending stream and they have no obligation to spend in the United States. Tax money that once supported our domestic economy will end up going abroad.

The rich speculate in stocks and real estate and trendy collectibles and bid up the price of things that already exist, all of which creates nothing much for employment or the economy. Recall the Credit Default Swaps and Collateralized Debt Obligations after the Bush era tax cuts, and the depression that followed.

Claims that tax breaks to the rich creates a bigger supply of capital to finance investments ignores the need for demand and the mass buying power that cannot exist in a country with the crude and extreme inequality of the United States and tax bills to make it worse.

The bloated and privileged rich can do nothing to benefit the country or the economy buying the Congress and helping themselves to the country’s buying power. Some of us think the wealthy and the Congress have a responsibility to support the welfare of the larger society. Instead they act like marauders and midnight looters, pillaging and laying to waste.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Job Rights and Sexual Harassment

Job Rights and Sexual Harassment

The recent spate of sexual harassment charges against a growing number of men by a growing number of women derives directly from the U.S. history of labor relations. Notice the majority of charges occur as part of employment and while on the job. The harassers tend to be past middle aged white men accustomed to giving authoritarian orders to people who have no job rights.

As I recall from my high school history, it was all white men who wrote our constitution. In spite of the “all men are created equal” stuff in the Declaration of Independence, their constitution left women out entirely and then created a whole under class of people with no rights at all; slaves they were called. We did have a great civil war to end slavery, but authoritarian white male privilege and notions derived in part from dictatorial authority over slave women, who I have read, were subjected to some grimy and disgusting sexual abuse. Unlike slaves you can quit your job, but in the United States employees work at will; anyone can be dismissed at any time and without cause or explanation. If you dare to study closely your job rights under U.S. state and federal law be sure to compare them with slavery.

Privileged white men of authority hate any communitarian self help efforts like labor unions and they have successfully neutralized those efforts since 1789. Remember Trump bragged about groping married women before the election. Sexual harassment will continue unabated in the current environment of labor law. Well defined job rights remain as an essential precursor to ending, or even reducing, sexual harassment.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trump and NAFTA

Trump and NAFTA

Trump will have to fight the most powerful interests of corporate America to end NAFTA, which he now threatens to do. Any study of NAFTA since its inception in 1993 finds direct benefits to the growth of U.S. Domestic Production(GDP), not to mention the benefits to Canada and Mexico. It is unnecessary to cite studies since there are many and they all find benefits.

In the initial years NAFTA eliminated thousands of jobs. The U.S. textile industry nearly disappeared after NAFTA. In North Carolina, for example, there were 288 thousand jobs in 1990 in textile mills and apparel manufacturing. By the end of 2016 it was 42 thousand. Across the country these same industries had 1.629 million jobs in 1990; by 2016 it was 359 thousand. In the cut and sew industry alone jobs dropped from 749 thousand in 1990 to only 105.8 thousand by 2016.

Much of the NAFTA related job loss occurred before NAFTA generated a significant increase in trade along with new production and investment. Over the 24 years of NAFTA new trade related production expanded U.S. GDP and generated replacement jobs. Whether the new jobs generated because of NAFTA are more than jobs lost because of NAFTA is irrelevant to the current Trump demand. Current NAFTA trading does support U.S. establishment employment in 2017, which guarantees killing NAFTA will cut jobs and do noticeable harm to employment.

Corporate America will not be happy to see an end to NAFTA, but the job loss will be a minimal concern in NAFTA matters. They have always had the money and clout to get their way, but corporate nerves do get frayed with Trump bluster. If Trump cared about the working class and acted as a leader, he would ignore the NAFTA fight and work to change the horrendous federal personal income tax that bores down so heavily on wage earners. He would work to revise and enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act to raise the minimum wage and guarantee overtime pay for all and a few more.

If corporate America cared about the working class and acted as leaders who cared about Americans, they would acknowledge Congress and President Clinton did them a favor with NAFTA back in 1993 and then support sharing some of the benefits with the working class.

By now, the end of 2017, Trump policies all demand and intend to destroy something - Obama Care, climate accords, Iran nuclear deals, TPP, NAFTA, – except taxing, spending and Federal Reserve policy keep going on as before. He hasn’t destroyed the economy … yet.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Minimum Wages in Seattle

Minimum Wage Increases, Wages, and Low-Wage Employment: Evidence from Seattle.” Ekaterina Jardim, Mark C. Long, Robert Plotnick, Emma van Inwegen, Jacob Vigdor, Hilary Wething, National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2017

In yet another study of the minimum wage six authors tell readers they intend to evaluate the wage, employment and hours effects of a first and second phase in of the Seattle Minimum wage ordinance. The first phase raised the minimum wage from $9.47 an hour to $11.00 an hour on April 1, 2015. The second phase raised the wage from $11.00 an hour to $13.00 an hour on January 1, 2016. They analyze “employment in all sectors paying below a specified real hourly rate.”

The paper’s opening sentence starts with the standard obsessions economists always cite against minimum wages: “Economic theory suggests that binding price floor policies, including minimum wages, should lead to a disequilibrium marked by excess supply and diminished demand.” Economists predict a raise in the minimum wage will reduce employment of those earning a wage lower than the minimum wage. The see cause and effect as part of their doctrine.

They conclude the first phase effect was smaller than the second phase, which second phase caused a decrease in hours worked in low wage employment by 9 percent while the wage of low-wage workers’ was about 3 percent so that the cost of this wage hike outweighed its benefits for these workers. They conclude the minimum wage hurts low wage labor because hours lost makes a loss bigger than the gain from higher wages.

People leave jobs and lose jobs for many reasons, especially in low wage employment where turnover rates can be high. If the Seattle minimum wage causes employers to decrease employment, it could be useful to go out and ask these low wage employers if they recently off employees and was that because of the higher minimum wage. Typically Economists resort to analysis using large data sets filled with severe shortcomings like the Seattle study I review here.

Their data set comes from Washington’s Employment Security Division, which is produced as part of national Unemployment Insurance(UI) system administered by each state. Old timers refer to it as ES 202 data, or just “the 202” data. It is compiled and used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their benchmark revision of the Current Employment Survey.

ES 202 data is reported by single or multi establishment within county and Metropolitan Statistical areas coded by industry using the governments North American Industry Classification System(NAICS). Public reports of the data have monthly employment and payroll totals, but there are no occupations reported and names of employers or employees remain suppressed and confidential.

The authors inform readers that the Employment Security Division provided them the total hours worked in addition to the employment and payroll totals. Further the Employment Security Division partitioned the Seattle-Bellevue-Evertt Washington Metropolitan Division data to break out Seattle as a special and private favor to them, perhaps from their connection with the University of Washington. Because their data is a special favor and confidential the authors were required to sign a document promising not to release the data under threat of legal action against them. Therefore no one else gets to look at the data; they provide only a summary of aggregated data by quarter in their Table 3 on page 45.

They state “This unique data set allows us to measure the AVERAGE wage paid to each worker in each quarter. We compute an hourly wage rate as total quarterly payroll divided by quarterly hours worked, which corresponds to average hourly earnings. They call these numbers a realized hourly wage rate. Therefore they use an average wage of thousands of employees, an amount no one actually earns. Actual wages paid to employees will be above and below the average.

In addition their data excludes those working at establishments with more than one location. These include a variety of chain stores and franchise restaurants in Seattle and the surrounding county and metropolitan areas. Seattle’s minimum wage for a business with 500 or more employees such as McDonald’s or Costco was $13.50 an hour during the time when smaller single establishment business had an $11 an hour minimum wage. The employees included in the study had a strong incentive to move out of small business and into the large businesses excluded from the study.

In addition they define low skill employment as those working with an average hourly wage rate of $19 an hour or less. While they give an excuse for doing this, they do so without knowledge of the occupations of the employees included in the sample or the skills, experience or education needed in the unknown occupations that justify such a decision. An establishment with an average wage of $19 an hour will have many earning wages above $19 an hour, which could be occupations that need college degree skills.

In their methodology at page 16 the authors admit the hazards of their partition at $19. They write “The proxy for low-skilled employment will produce accurate estimates of the impact of minimum wage increases to the extent that a wage threshold accurately partitions the labor market into affected and unaffected components.” Their partition comes at an AVERAGE wage causing some who work with an actual wage above $19 an hour to be included in the below $19 partition while others will be in the below $19 partition who have wages above the $19 partition. There can be no assurance the 9 percent decline in total hours they cite ever worked an hours below the minimum wage or lost their job because of it.

Further they state “[The threshold wage] will overstate employment reductions if the threshold is set low enough that the minimum wage increase causes pay for some work to rise above it. This concern is particularly relevant given previous evidence of "cascading" impacts of minimum wage increases on slightly higher-paying jobs.” The previous evidence of “cascading impacts” comes from several Neumark and Wascher studies and a book, one of which is reviewed on this link at The cascading impact terminology refers to people who lose their below minimum wage job, but rather than be out of work they apply for and find work at a higher wage.

As I have suggested before people who lose their minimum wage job do not disappear, but begin looking for other jobs in other occupations with wages higher in the wage distribution. Forced to leave a sub-minimum wage job the newly unemployed increase the supply of labor in other occupations where they moderate wages in higher wage occupations and add to employment. The authors might recognize the millions of opportunities to move from low wage to higher wage employment by looking at wage distributions by occupation reported by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in their Occupational Employment Survey.

Their Summary of data in Table 3 supports this view. The table has three columns for total jobs, total hours and total payroll and a fourth column has computed average wages. The rows are for each quarter from the second quarter of 2014 to third quarter of 2016. The first column of each category has only those employers with employees that have an average monthly wage of $13 an hour or less. The second has only those employers with employees that have an average monthly wage of $19 an hour or less. The third set has an average monthly wage for all employers and employees.

These partitions allow a further partition into two additional columns through subtracting the less than $13 column from the less than $19 column, which leaves only those establishment employers with an average wage greater than $13 an hour and less than $19 an hour. Further subtraction leaves another column of only those employers with an average wage of $19 or more. Every employee and his or her employer is part of one and only one mutually exclusive column of the data.

These columns have the “cascading effects” but they show the benefit of the Seattle Minimum wage. In the second quarter of 2014 those working at establishments with an average wage less than $13 an hour total 39,807. By the third quarter of 2016 the total falls to 23,232, a loss of 16,575 working at establishments with an average wage less than $13 an hour.

Over that two year and one quarter period a low inflation rate combined with the higher minimum wage would tend to reduce people working at establishments that have an average wage below $13 an hour. Economists like to suggest that is a bad result caused by the minimum wage, but during the same period those working at establishments with an average wage above $13 and below $19 increased from 53,152 to 63,610, a gain of 10,548 jobs at above the minimum wage. Those working at establishments with an average wage above $19 increases from 199,681 to 249,675, a gain of 49,994 jobs. These are exactly what to expect if the minimum wage benefits low wage workers. In Seattle wage workers seek employment in other establishments in occupations that pay above the minimum wage.

In their 2008 book Neumark and Wascher Minimum Wages, cited by the authors in their Seattle study write on page 116, “. . . as we emphasized earlier in this chapter the potential for minimum wage increases to affect wages higher in the wage distribution is also important in assessing the effects of minimum wage policy.” It is. That is where the benefits of the minimum wage will be and that is where they are in Seattle.

This paper has no right to be a part of the public debate on minimum wages because it makes no attempt to persuade a general audience and cannot be read except by those with experience in the specialized terminology of the economics fraternity. It uses suppressed data and undefined insider terms from other studies such as region fixed effect, period fixed effect, treatment effect, idiosyncratic shock among other terms.

Business predictably opposes an increase in the minimum wage. It raises costs for businesses that depend on low wage employment and thereby pressures owners and managers to experiment with prices, jobs and work schedules. It might in some situations reduce long term profits, but that does not mean a higher minimum has no benefits to labor or the larger economy from those who will have more buying power.

Academic economists work under pressure to confirm market theory. When they do what is good for their career, the news media and the public seize on the conclusions and nothing else. They evaluate the conclusions based on academic credentials not the credibility of the work.

In Seattle I read the mayor and city council ignored the hecklers and went ahead with the next phase of their minimum wage program; they raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. If I could get the suppressed employment data I could determine the benefits to labor and the economy I predict will continue.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Insulting Labor

Insulting Labor

The current United States Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, has proposed putting former President Ronald Reagan in the Department’s Labor Hall of Honor. Ronald Reagan became president in January 1981 and so it was still early in his first term when the strike of the nation’s air traffic controllers union, PATCO, started August 3, 1981. The strike ended abruptly two days later when President Ronald Reagan fired 11,345 air traffic controllers. The firing ended, or busted, the union, which was decertified with little delay.

Many cite the failed PATCO strike as the date of an abrupt degeneration in U.S. labor relations. Reagan era strikes brought similar strikes with union defeats and failures at Phelps-Dodge in Arizona, to airline pilots, to Yale University support staff, at Hormel, at International Paper and others. Bush era strikes at Pittston Coal Co, A.E. Staley, Caterpillar and Bridgestone-Firestone were all defeats for organized labor.

It does not matter which side anyone takes in these disputes or that Reagan was the innocuous head of the Screen Actors Guild. Putting a management figure who crudely busted a union into a Labor Hall of Honor amounts to be a deliberate Trump style insult that ridicules and debases organized labor. Ronald Reagan was rigid and sanctimonious through the whole episode but I doubt even he would choose to show such contempt for the others in a labor hall of honor.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

West Virginia Jobs 2016

West Virginia Jobs 2016

West Virginia lost 11 thousand jobs during the recession that ran from the fall of 2008 until spring of 2010, but recovered those losses by 2012 when statewide employment reached its high of 765.2 thousand jobs. However, since 2012 statewide employment has declined by 17.4 thousand jobs to 747.8 thousand jobs in 2016. Even though jobs recovered to their pre-recession totals, the recent decline leaves West Virginia with a 2.3 percent loss of statewide employment. That makes West Virginia one of nine states with a loss of jobs since the 2008-2010 recession. Only two states had a bigger percentage loss of jobs than West Virginia. Those losses came even though national employment increased from 132 million to just under 138 million jobs during the same years.

After reaching a statewide high in 2012, West Virginia had a decrease in jobs in the lumber and mining industries, construction, manufacturing, wholesale-retail trade, financial activities, and a combination of repair and maintenance services, personal services, and non-profit associations. By 2016 the combined loss in these sectors was 26.3 thousand jobs.

Health Care, Government, and private education offset some of the losses with 6.9 thousand new jobs. An additional 700 hundred jobs in transportation and warehousing, a hundred jobs in information services, 800 jobs in business and professional services, mostly support services, and 400 jobs in restaurants bring the total job gains to 8.9 thousand jobs for those industries with any new jobs. Combining the gains of 8.9 thousand with the losses 26.3 thousand accounts for the net loss of 17.4 thousand jobs.

The prospects for job growth remain poor.

Back in 1990 West Virginia had 34 thousand jobs in lumber and mining, mostly coal mining, which was 5.4 percent of statewide employment. It was still 34 thousand in 2012 but the total was down to 4.4 percent of statewide jobs. By 2016 only 20 thousand jobs remained with a 2.7 percent share of statewide employment. Almost all of the job loss in lumber and mining came in the last four years. The sudden loss of jobs makes the decline more noticeable, but a 2.7 percent share for lumber and mining keeps West Virginia well above the national percentage of 1.7 percent for these jobs. There are only 50.3 thousand coal mining jobs left in the entire United States and they continue to fall month to month. West Virginia will not be able to hold onto its current coal jobs, much less increase them.

West Virginia has a smaller share of statewide employment than the national economy in all but three industry sub-sectors: health care, government service for the federal, state, and local government, and repair, maintenance, and personal services. Combined these three industries have 43.8 percent of West Virginia employment. Combined health care and government service had a 1.5 percent increase in the share of statewide jobs from 2012 to 2016. Only three other sub sectors had any percentage increase – business support services, private education, restaurants – and their total increase was .7 percent less than half of the health care and government increase.

West Virginia continues to lose jobs in all the same sectors as the national economy, but does not generate more jobs in the sectors doing well in the national economy. For example, professional and technical services have 6.2 percent of national jobs, but only 3.3 percent in West Virginia. In the national economy professional and technical services provide a major source of new jobs adding 30 to 60 thousand jobs a month, but in West Virginia the total has remained at or below 25 thousand jobs for over a decade with no growth.

In the national economy leisure and hospitality, especially restaurants, provide a major source of new jobs. They are often low paid jobs, but the West Virginia economy has not been generating many low paid jobs. Leisure and hospitality have only 9.9 percent of statewide employment, a percent below the national average. Worse their 2016 employment in this sector has not budged above 74 thousand jobs in the last four years.

In the national economy administrative support services provide a major source of new jobs. Administrative support services have 6.3 percent of jobs in the national economy but only 4.6 percent in West Virginia. These are jobs at employment services, telemarketing bureaus, security and armored car services, janitorial services, landscaping and a few more. They were 32.4 thousand in 2012 that reached their statewide high in 2016, but still only 34 thousand jobs.

In the national economy government services have 15.4 percent of national employment, but 20.9 percent of statewide West Virginia employment. All three levels of government employment – federal, state, local – have higher shares in West Virginia than the national economy. In the national economy health care has 13.2 percent of national employment, but 15.4 percent of West Virginia jobs. With so many industries in decline new jobs in health care and government services elevate their relative importance to new heights.

Between 2012 and 2016 the Bureau of the Census reports West Virginia had a drop in statewide population of 25.5 thousand. Given the prospects for jobs, we might consider them the smart ones; they left. In a recent news story the Governor of West Virginia announced he was leaving the Democratic Party to join the Republicans. Soon after Trump came to cheer him on with a rant through his well worn list of personal grudges. He did not tell the crowd their only hope for new jobs and a better economy lies with health care and government service. A good policy for jobs would tax the rich to pay for infra structure construction and generate government service jobs, especially social services. Wild, miserable West Virginia.

Monday, July 24, 2017

State Health Care Employment 2016

State Health Care Employment 2016

Health care employment varies widely from one state to another. In the national economy establishment employment in health care has 19.1 million jobs, or 13.2 percent of national employment. California employs 2.183 million in the four health care sub-sectors of physicians services, hospitals, nursing and residential care and social services. California has the high while Wyoming is the low with only 24.8 thousand jobs working in the health care industry. The high percentage for health care in statewide employment is 17.3 percent in Massachusetts and the low 8.8 percent in Wyoming.

To allow for the enormous state population differences it is necessary to use employment per thousand population to compare state variation. Variations diminish but remain: California has 55.6 employed in health care per thousand population while Wyoming has 42.8 per thousand population and Massachusetts 90.5.

The high for health care employment per thousand population is 101 in the District of Columbia while the low is 39 in Nevada. There are 9 states with health care employment below 50 per thousand while 13 states have health care employment above 70 per thousand. The average is 61.3.

The five southern states - Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina – are among the nine low health care employment per thousand population states. The other four including Nevada are Utah, Wyoming and Hawaii.

The nine states above 70 jobs per thousand population have five of the six New England states – Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island – and also close by New York and Pennsylvania are above 70 per thousand population as well. However the remaining six show less connection to location or population. They are the District of Columbia and Delaware in the east and North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota in the mid-west.

There are 32 states and the District of Columbia that took the Obama Care Medicaid option and 19 states that did not. All five of the low health care employment southern states mentioned above did not take the Medicaid option. Florida, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas did not take the Medicaid option either. While their health care employment was above 50 per thousand population, they were below the average; all four were between 50 and 55 per thousand population.

The remaining ten states that did not take the Medicaid option are scattered geographically and show a moderate correlation with employment per thousand population. The Pearson correlation coefficient between the Medicaid option (Yes = 1, No = 0) and health care jobs per thousand population in the fifty states and the District of Columbia equals .36, where 0 means random variation and 1 predicts exact variation.

If we think of health care employment per thousand population as a measure of state effort and commitment to health care, then there are some good signs. Every single state and the District of Columbia have a higher health care employment per thousand population in 2016 than in 2007, the last full year before the 2008 to 2010 recession. All the states are doing better. Four states have an increase over 20 percent and 12 more had an increase of 15 to 20 percent. However, the correlation between health care per thousand population in 2007 and 2016 is high, .98, meaning roughly the same relative differences between the states continue now as they were in 2007. While it is certain the Medicaid option helps health care employment the effect so far appears modest. The differences suggest a difference of state preferences reflected through fifty-one varied political systems, although the result does not necessarily reflect the popular will. We know there is money in politics as well as health care.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ohio Jobs 2016

Ohio Jobs 2016

Ohio establishment jobs dropped from a high of 5.625 million in 2000 to 5.427 million in 2007 before the Bush recession cut employment further to 5.036 million in 2010 just as the recession came to an end. Ohio lost so many manufacturing jobs in the seven years from 2000 to 2007 it lost a statewide average of 197 thousand jobs a month even though national employment increased from 132 million to just under 138 million jobs during the same years. Note (1)

The recession ran from the fall of 2008 until spring of 2010, which makes 2007 the last full year before the 2008 to 2010 recession got started. The national establishment employment surpassed the pre-recession high in 2014. Ohio jobs finally climbed above its 2007 total in 2016 when jobs reached an average monthly total of 5.481 million, a total that surpasses pre-recession employment by 54 thousand jobs, or just 1 percent above 2007. Ohio ranks 39th in the percentage increase of statewide jobs above the pre-recession total. Nine states remain below 2007 totals. There were just 54 thousand new statewide jobs even though the Bureau of Census reports an increase in the Ohio population over 147 thousand.

National establishment employment reached 144.3 million in 2016, up 6.3 million jobs over 2007. The increase in national employment is a net increase because many industry sub sectors like manufacturing lost jobs. In Ohio, natural resources, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, information services, financial activities, personal services, non-profit associations, and government services all lost jobs in the years 2007 to 2016. The total of jobs lost in these sectors equals 200.2 thousand. Since Ohio had a net increase of 54 thousand jobs, Ohio had 254.2 thousand new jobs in just a few sub sectors to offset the job losses.

To make up for job losses in declining industries assures that remaining industries will become especially important as a source of new jobs. Over the last two decades new jobs in the U.S. economy have come from a short list of industry sub-sectors and especially so in Ohio where new jobs came primarily from business and professional services, health care and leisure-hospitality.

Business and professional services have three components: 1. professional and technical services, 2. establishments that manage companies and enterprises, and 3. administrative and support services. In Ohio, two professional and technical services - computer design and related services and management and technical consulting – added 21.1 thousand jobs. The job gains in these two professional sub sectors offset job losses in other professional services like legal services, accounting and bookkeeping services, architecture and engineering services, and advertising and related services, which cut the net increase to 15.8 thousand professional jobs.

Management of companies and enterprises added 26.6 thousand jobs, an unusually large number. These are office jobs of holding companies and corporate, subsidiary and regional managing offices. In the national economy establishments managing companies make up 1.5 percent of employment, but 2.5 percent in Ohio. The 26.6 thousand new jobs raised the Ohio share of employment in this sub sector from 2.0 to 2.5 percent of statewide employment.

Administrative and support services including waste management added 11.5 thousand jobs, but 6.7 thousand of these jobs were in services to buildings and dwellings that includes janitorial services, landscaping, carpet cleaners and exterminators.

Health care added 107.6 thousand jobs primarily in physician services, hospitals and social services. Private school education added 22.3 thousand jobs and state and local government education another 4.4 thousand jobs. Leisure and hospitality added 50.2 thousand jobs, but with 75 percent of the jobs at restaurants: 37.3 thousand of 50.2 thousand jobs. Slightly 60 percent of new jobs in Ohio came from just two professional services, management of companies and health care. Including the jobs from leisure and hospitality adds another 20 percent. Add 8 percent more for private schools.

Those with college and professional degree skills specialized in computing, accounting, finance and health care have the best chance of finding self supporting work. Employment in health care tends to be widely dispersed geographically given the need for patients to visit doctors and clinics. Ohio has kept up well with health care employment and wisely took the Medicaid expansion. However, more and more of professional and technical services can be delivered electronically, which allows them to be produced and delivered from any other state. Electronic delivery of professional services puts the states in competition for these jobs. In the national economy professional and technical services make up 6.15 percent of jobs, but only 4.69 percent in Ohio in 2016. For the years from 2007 to 2016 Ohio ranks 30th for job gains in professional services among the fifty states and the District of Columbia.

The average annual growth rate of statewide establishment employment since 2007 comes to .11 percent, far below the national average. Jobs in services like retail, publishing, telecommunications, finance and real estate do poorly in the national economy, but they lag even more in Ohio. For those in Ohio with high school degree skills the options are few.

The limited number of service sectors generating a net increase of jobs significantly lowers prospects for statewide job growth. It guarantees that health care employment must grow for Ohio to have a statewide increase of jobs. Computer design and related service jobs in Ohio have 1 percent of statewide employment, up from .8 percent in 2007, but still only 59 thousand jobs. Computer design and related services have 1.5 percent of national employment. Otherwise restaurants will have to provide thousands of new jobs a year to maintain even modest job growth

The idea people can finish high school and find career employment or self-supporting work breaks down day by day while business has started complaining of labor shortages. Politicians suggest a few bromides, but they offer nothing to solve the dismal record of Ohio jobs.

Note (1) All job and employment number citations are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, Current Employment Survey. No exceptions.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Pathetic Case of Oklahoma Jobs

The Pathetic Case of Oklahoma Jobs

Oklahoma establishment employment reached a monthly average high of 1,677.8 million in 2015, but dropped to 1.652 million jobs in 2016. The annual rate of growth rate since 1990 is 1.2 percent, not great but not bad compared to the national average and other states. From 2000 to 2016 the annual rate of growth dropped to .59 percent, a fifty percent decline. Oklahoma jobs declined during both of the Bush recessions, which came after the first quarter of 2001 and the second recession after the third quarter of 2008. Jobs have recovered but it was 2013 before Oklahoma jobs reached their 2008 level.

Every county in Oklahoma voted for Trump. Since Trump promised jobs that might be one reason. While he has yet to follow through with any more than talk, the problem with Oklahoma jobs shows up in the most glaring fashion over the last four years from 2012 to 2016. Over those four years monthly establishment employment was up a grand total of 38 thousand jobs at a .58 percent growth rate. Downright pitiful.

Goods Production

Goods production includes mining and mining related jobs like oil drilling, construction and manufacturing. Mining had its largest employment in 2014 with 62.1 thousand jobs, but it was still less than 2 percent of statewide establishment employment. It dropped to 44 thousand in 2016. Construction added 7 thousand jobs from 2012 to 2016 while manufacturing employment dropped 7 thousand canceling the construction gains.

To be fair the decline in goods production employment over the last four years comes as part of a long term trend of more than two decades. Since 1990 goods production lost 4.3 percent of statewide employment; since 2000 it lost 2.5 percent. However the entire 2.5 percent loss came in the four years, 2012 to 2016.

The Service Industries with a net job loss from 2012 to 2016

Important parts of the Oklahoma service industry, representing slightly more than 30 percent of statewide employment, did poorly. Service industries did have a few more jobs, although a few services lost jobs over the four year period. The information services lost a thousand jobs. It has publishing including software and Internet publishing, broadcasting, telecommunications, data processing and a few more. The total of Oklahoma financial activities including banking, credit and real estate services added just one thousand jobs.

The combination of professional and business support services had a net increase of a 1 thousand jobs, an especially poor performance for a sector with just over 11 percent of statewide employment in 2012. Professional services has law firms, accounting firms, architecture and engineering firms, computer design and relation services, management and technical consulting services, advertising and related services, but these services added only 3 thousand jobs, which were offset by a loss of two thousand jobs in business support services. Professional services need people with college degree skills, but Oklahoma College graduates will have to leave Oklahoma to find these jobs.

The worst failure to create jobs comes with health care. Over the four year period 2012 to 2016 Oklahoma health care employment increased at an annual growth of .85 percent, when the national average over the same four years was 2.36 percent. Total health care job growth over the four years comes to just 7 thousand new jobs. Slightly less than half the jobs came in services that actually provide patient care: physicians services, outpatient care, hospital services, and nursing and nursing home care. The other half came in social assistance jobs mostly non-profit family services, community food and housing and emergency relief services.

If we combine the 15.1 percent of statewide employment in goods production jobs with the 31.5 percent of statewide jobs in information services, financial activities, business and professional services, private education and health care we have a combined loss of 7 thousand jobs for 46.6 percent of statewide employment.

The Service Industries with a net job gain from 2012 to 2016

The remaining 53.4 percent of statewide employment comes in wholesale and retail trade, leisure and hospitality, repair and maintenance services, personal services, non-profit associations, and government. Wholesale trade was up only a thousand jobs, but retail trade did well among services with 11 thousand new jobs. Transportation and warehousing added 5 thousand new jobs, but modal transportation did poorly: airlines lost a thousand jobs, trucking added only a thousand jobs.

Leisure and hospitality added 17 thousand jobs with 13.3 thousand of these jobs at full service and fast food restaurants. The highest annual growth rate in jobs for any Oklahoma industry over the four years came in full service restaurants: 2.63 percent, more than four times the statewide growth rate.

Repair and maintenance services, and personal services had no new jobs over the four years. Non-profit associations added a little over 4 thousand jobs and government had a net increase of 6.5 thousand jobs. It was a net increase because federal and state government jobs declined while local government employment was up almost 8 thousand job over the four years.

Reality Check

Oklahoma ranks 45th in statewide job growth over the four years 2012 to 2016. While the monthly average increase was only 38 thousand jobs, the two metropolitan areas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, had 53 thousand new jobs over the four years. That means the rural areas that make up the balance of state employment lost 15 thousand jobs. All of the 7 thousand new health care jobs were in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the net change in health care in the rural balance of state was zero.

The state legislature has apparently cut state income taxes along with corresponding cuts in services, especially education. Nothing assures Oklahoma residents will return their tax cut to the Oklahoma economy; the poor job performance suggests these funds left the state. The state legislature also had the opportunity to bring in federal dollars with Medicaid expansion offered during the Obama administration. Additional health care spending would create jobs and health services for state residents, especially the rural poor, but the legislature threw them away. Oil exploration creates less than 2 percent of statewide jobs for the environmental dangers it creates.

Just over 45 percent of new jobs over the last four years came in Leisure and hospitality and almost 80 percent of those jobs came in restaurant occupations such as cooks, waiters, waitresses, and combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food. The later occupation, food preparation and serving workers, has the highest employment of all restaurant and food preparation jobs in the state of Oklahoma, 34,520. That is up from 28,650 in 2012, which equals a 4.77 percent annual rate of growth compared to the .58 percent rate for statewide employment mentioned above. These jobs have a median wage in Oklahoma of $18,080 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Occupational Employment files. It is the lowest median wage of 710 occupations reported for the state of Oklahoma; dead last.

Enough said.

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.