For years lamestream economics has touted “labor market flexibility” – a euphemism for making it easier for employers to dismiss workers – as the best recipe for job creation. Guess what? It turns out that countries whose policies make labor markets more supportive for workers – including better wages, better benefits and better job security – are doing better at job creation. The evidence prompts a New York Times reporter to ask:
What if the very thing that is often viewed as one of the United States’ sources of dynamism — flexible labor markets — is the driving force behind the economy’s greatest weakness: millions of people who are neither working nor looking for a job?
Read more here.
In this “Economics for the Rest of Us” podcast, Diptherio breaks down the peculiar ways “unemployment” is measured by the U.S. government. Check it out here.
A new study reveals rising mortality among whites in the United States:
Between 1978 to 1998, the mortality rate for U.S. whites aged 45 to 54 fell by 2 percent per year on average, which matched the average rate of decline in the six countries shown, and the average over all other industrialized countries. After 1998, other rich countries’ mortality rates continued to decline by 2 percent a year. In contrast, U.S. white non-Hispanic mortality rose by half a percent a year. No other rich country saw a similar turnaround.
Read more here.
Do freelance gigs liberate workers? Lynn Parramore interviews Econ4’s Gerald Friedman:
By removing any social protection, the gig economy returns us to the most oppressive type of cut-throat and hierarchical capitalism, a social order where the power to hire and fire has been restored to employers, giving them once again unfettered control over the workplace.
Read more here.
Econ4’s Jerry Friedman looks at the changing composition of demand in America:
While Sears and J.C. Penney drift towards bankruptcy, Nordstrom and other luxury brands flourish. Rather than depending on sales to working-class and middle-class consumers American corporations are doing very well selling to rich consumers, here and abroad. Rather than promising workers high wages to ensure productivity, they maintain labor discipline through fear.
Read his piece here.
Jeannette Wicks-Lim does the math:
Each time a minimum wage hike is put on the table, the political debate spins on the question of whether such a move would cause business costs to increase so much that jobs are lost. To progress past this perennial debate, one key fact has to be pounded into the American psyche: Average minimum wage hikes impose small cost increases on businesses—so small that businesses can typically adjust by means other than closing their doors or laying off workers. Recent proposals to raise the $7.25 federal minimum present a welcome opportunity to take another whack at this.
Read her piece here.
Arin Dube reviews recent research to answer some basic questions:
While we can set a wage floor using policy, should we? Or should we leave it to the market and deal with any adverse consequences, like poverty and inequality, using other policies, like tax credits and transfers? These longstanding questions take on a particular urgency as wage inequality continues to grow, and as we consider specific proposals to raise the federal minimum wage — currently near a record low — and to index future increases to the cost of living.
Read his piece in the New York Times here.
We hear a lot these days about the U.S. government’s budget deficit. But what we ought to be talking about is the country’s trade deficit, write Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker:
Running a trade deficit means that income generated in the United States is being spent elsewhere. In that situation, labor demand — jobs to produce imported goods — shifts from here to there.
Read their op-ed piece here.
A new economy is emerging as the old economy falters, writes Econ4’s Juliet Schor in the New York Times:
[W]hile they are no panacea, the emergent trends of community fabrication, self-provisioning and the sharing economy collectively suggest a future for work in wealthy countries that involves more making, sharing and self-organizing. There may be fewer formal jobs — but a more entrepreneurial approach to making money, one that emphasizes smaller-scale companies and collectively owned enterprises, more sharing, and less spending. As painful as the years since the crash have been, a more resilient, satisfying and sustainable way to work and live could be one beneficial consequence.
Read her op-ed piece here.
Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz doesn’t mince words:
Let us be clear: our economy is not working the way a well working economy should. We have vast unmet needs, but idle workers and machines. We have bridges that need repair, roads and schools that need to be built. We have students that need a twenty-first century education, but we are laying off teachers. We have empty homes and homeless people. We have rich banks that are not lending to our small businesses, but are instead using their wealth and ingenuity to manipulate markets, and exploit working people with predatory lending.
Read excerpts from his speech at the AFL-CIO here.