The country shed 33,000 jobs in September, the first loss in seven years, the Labor Department said Friday, ending the longest stretch of job growth on record.
But that decline was skewed down by Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in late August, and Irma, which hit Florida in early September. The storms came just before businesses filled out monthly surveys of payrolls, which are submitted to the government and used to tabulate hiring. Many businesses reported reduced payrolls during the survey week of Sept. 12. Employment in the restaurant industry, in particular, took a big hit, falling 105,000 in September from the month before, after averaging growth of 29,000 during the prior six months.
The dispute over methodology explains the importance of this summer’s research on Seattle’s minimum-wage experiment. The city’s wage floor, previously about $9.50 an hour, has been raised to $13 and is on its way to $15. A comprehensive study by academics at the University of Washington estimated that the higher minimum “reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent.” Consequently, earnings for these employees actually dropped “by an average of $125 per month.” What’s especially inconvenient for minimum-wage proponents is that the Seattle study used a “close comparison” method similar to the one they have favored for years. The authors of the study compared workers in Seattle with those in other metropolitan areas in Washington, like Olympia, Tacoma and Spokane. To no one’s surprise, that hasn’t stopped minimum-wage supporters from attacking the Seattle research. In a June letter to city officials, Mr. Reich, the Berkeley professor, wrote that the study “draws only from areas in Washington State that do not at all resemble Seattle.” But this gives away the game: Any researchers doing this kind of study should explicitly choose control areas that show similar trends, as did the University of Washington team. More to the point, if the controls for Seattle can’t be trusted, it undermines the whole idea of “close comparison.” Criticizing the method only when it delivers evidence against minimum wages suggests the motivations here may be ideological rather than empirical.
The Supreme Court said Thursday it would consider whether public employees can be required to pay union dues, revisiting an issue that deadlocked the court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last year.
Under a 1977 Supreme Court precedent, states may authorize contracts between public agencies and their employee unions that require represented workers to pay dues, or an equivalent fee, for collective bargaining costs.
U.S. families’ wealth and incomes rose across the board as the economic recovery continued in recent years, a shift after they stagnated for all but the most well-off in the aftermath of the recession, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday.
Minority households and families with less education had larger proportional gains in income than others between 2013 and 2016, suggesting the fruits of the recovery spread to a wider swath of society, the Fed said.
Weakness in the labor market doesn’t adequately explain why fewer men are working or seeking jobs, according to a new paper published by economist Scott Winship and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. One big contributor is the rising number of men in their prime working years–aged 25 to 54–who are getting federal disability benefits, or report being disabled, and who are not actively searching for jobs, Mr. Winship concludes. This suggests there is less slack in the labor market—such as people who could be drawn in off the sidelines—than many policy makers believe.