News & Commentary

August 24, 2017

This week, U.S. joblessness claims rose by 2,000, which was less than expected, to 234,000.  This may reflect a tightening in labor market conditions.  Joblessness claims — a close indication of layoffs — have come in below 300,000 for 129 weeks in a row.  Central bankers meet this week for an annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to assess the global economic picture.  Few analysts expect any major policy changes to be announced, but the Fed is in the midst of gradually and modestly raising its benchmark interest rate to reflect the strengthened U.S. economy.  Reuters reports.

In 2016, Massachusetts became the first state where half of its workers held a bachelor’s degree or higher.  This is an increase from only 20% in 1979.  The increase in educational attainment also reflects a growing “college wage premium” in the state;  college-educated workers earn on average 99% — or nearly double — the wages of those in the labor force with only a high school education.  The nationwide average premium was 56.6% in 2016.  The Associated Press reports.

On Tuesday, the 2nd Circuit decided by a 2-1 vote that day laborers have a First Amendment right to solicit jobs.  A 2009 law that banned solicitation on the basis that workers reaching out to motorists caused traffic and safety issues.  Though the law banned efforts to stop a vehicle only if a suspect says the wrong thing, for example, ‘hire me’ as opposed to ‘tell me the time,’ the court found that this content-based restriction was not acceptable under the First Amendment.   The Washington Post reports.

India’s high court ruled on Thursday that the right to privacy is a fundamental right protected by the Indian Constitution.  The high court’s ruling may threaten the government’s interest in maintaining its biometric database on residents. Aadhaar cards, which ascribe unique ID numbers, and record fingerprints and iris scans of each person, were first used to streamline welfare benefit systems for the poor around 2007. By February 2016, over 980 million residents had Aadhaar cards. From January to March of this year, many government ministries made Aadhaar cards necessary for employment and pension plans, as well as for filing income taxes and operating bank accounts.  The New York Times reports.


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