Weekend News & Commentary — January 7-8, 2017

The last jobs report for 2016 came out Friday, marking 75 months of consecutive job growth under the Obama administration.  December saw 156,000 new jobs and wage growth of 2.9%; unemployment held steady at 4.7% (up slightly from 4.6% in November).  The report is consistent with the Fed’s outlook for continued gains in the labor market in 2017, according to The Wall Street Journal.

With the last numbers in, The New York Times looks back at President Obama’s jobs record.  Job growth has not been as robust as under previous administrations, but Obama will be passing an economy near full employment — “something only a few modern presidents have accomplished.”  Meanwhile, NPR sums up Obama’s jobs legacy in just eight charts: under Obama, wages have started to climb, part-time workers who wanted more hours are getting them, and jobs have shifted from manufacturing to other sectors.  Will President-elect Trump be able to build on — or even sustain — the progress made during the Obama era?  Business Insider weighs in.

In other news, it’s official: Kentucky will now become a right-to-work state.  A bill that allows workers to opt out of union dues was approved by Kentucky Republicans Saturday morning, and is expected to be signed into law immediately.  State lawmakers also voted to repeal the prevailing wage law, dealing a serious blow to labor, The Huffington Post reports.  Kentucky will be the 27th state to adopt right-to-work.

Meanwhile, with the fate of the Department of Labor’s overtime rule still in limbo, employers across the nation are rolling back planned raises — with the expectation that President-elect Trump and his Labor Secretary Andy Puzder will be scrapping the rule.  The Atlantic has more.

Lastly, in automation news, a leading insurance firm in Japan has started replacing its workers with artificial intelligence.  34 employees at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance are now out of a job, with IBM’s Watson taking over their roles.  As fears continue to grow over the threat of automation — the next Labor Secretary has already expressed enthusiasm about replacing workers with robots in the U.S. — The Christian Science Monitor considers whether there’s still room for humans in an automated era.