State and local regulatory battles continue to plague sharing economy companies like Uber and Airbnb. However, their business models faced an existential—though underappreciated—threat from President Obama’s Department of Labor. In a positive step for independent workers and the consumers that they serve, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta rescinded the problematic Obama-era regulatory guidance on independent contractor status this month . Sharing-economy users and workers should celebrate this long-overdue change. The problems started in summer 2015 when the then Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Commissioner David Weil issued an administrator’s interpretation that, if taken seriously by courts, would have made it more difficult for workers to be independent contractors. This so-called “guidance” could be more accurately deemed “lawmaking through blog post” because did not have to go before the public for comment and it was never voted on by Congress—even though it could have destroyed the work arrangements that have driven the sharing economy’s growth. The interpretation threatened to turn people who partner with online platforms from independent contractors to employees, resulting in restricted flexibility and opportunity. Based on her public remarks on the sharing economy, Hillary Clinton would have likely embraced this regulatory change if she would have won the election. (For more information on this administrator’s interpretation, see my House Education and the Workforce Committee testimony.)
Residential solar has seen brighter days.
As detailed in the most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight report, national residential PV installations fell both year-over-year (17 percent) and quarter-over-quarter (11 percent) for the first time since GTM Research began tracking the market on a quarterly basis in 2010. That’s a big deal.
When one takes a closer look at the data, it’s clear that much of this downturn can be pegged to the fortunes of California, which is still the largest state market for residential PV. But the state’s standing is diminishing.
In Q1, California accounted for its smallest share of the national market at 35 percent -- down from 42 percent in Q1 2016 -- while falling over 30 percent year-over-year.
But the shortage is particularly problematic in places such as Kosciusko County, where the unemployment rate rests at 2 percent. Of the county’s 41,136 adults who can work, 40,311 are employed, according to government statistics. This region — a land of clear lakes, duck farms and medical device makers — escaped the industrial decline that rocked other communities throughout the Rust Belt. It prospered, thanks to a local industry that proved largely immune to competition from China and Mexico. But without more people to grow Warsaw’s business, the chances of companies relocating is “extraordinarily high,” said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Indiana’s Ball State University
The report follows a disappointing April, when the state lost jobs for the first time in several months. The May unemployment rate dropped from 4.8% in April, but it still hovers above the national rate of 4.3%. For the second month in a row, the state economy’s year-over-year growth was slower in May than the overall U.S. economy.
LAEDC’s Institute for Applied Economics has released the report, Goods on the Move: Trade and Logistics in Southern California. The report looks at jobs, wages, economic impact, trends, and factors affecting the future of this major regional industry cluster, which directly employs over half a million people in Southern California. The industry continues to grow, with more jobs being added. While average wages for the industry as a whole are above the LA County average, the individual occupations span a wide range of salaries. Warehousing experienced a 55% increase in employment during the past ten years, but salaries in that sector have been trending down, and increasing automation is a factor to watch.