Today’s News & Commentary—February 8, 2016
The January jobs report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday has been the subject of economic forecasts over the weekend. According to the report, nonagricultural employment rose by 151,000 and the unemployment rate fell to 4.9%, which is the first time the jobless rate has dipped below 5.0% in over eight years. Wage growth was also notable as the average hourly earnings rate rose by 12 cents, to $25.39, an hour for all employees and by 6 cents, to $21.33, for individuals in private-sector production and nonsupervisory positions. The New York Times reports that the wage increase might be a sign that the economy has become stable enough for workers to demand more pay. Analysts for MarketWatch, however, suggest that the “slower-than-expected” pace of hiring might be indicative of a “weakening U.S. economy” and “the possibility of recession.” Despite mixed reviews from analysts, President Barack Obama views the statistics as a healthy sign of progress, reports the Times. “After reaching 10 percent in 2009,” he told reporters in Washington at a White House briefing, “the unemployment rate has now fallen to 4.9 percent . . . Americans are working.”
Union members of 769 United Steelworkers working at refineries in California and Washington State have settled with their employer, Tesoro Corp., for $8.08 million, reports Reuters. The payout will compensate employees for bonuses denied while the workers were on strike in 2015. After non-striking employees received bonuses in March of 2015, those workers who participated in the strike filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for retaliation and unlawful modification of their contract. Under the settlement, 100 percent of the bonuses that employees were eligible for last March will be meted out.
Another prominent settlement is the anticipated $3.1 million that the City of Chicago plans to dole out to pinch a class-action lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in U.S. District Court last Friday. According to the Chicago Tribune, the DOJ filed the lawsuit on behalf of two men who alleged that the Chicago Police Department used a 10-year residency requirement to discriminate against foreign-born applicants. In addition to monetary compensation, the lawsuit also demands that the Police Department change its hiring policies to ensure that the residency requirement does not become a “pass/fail screening device.” The Tribune reports that the city could approve the settlement as early as this Wednesday.