News & Commentary

January 1, 2016

New year, new laws. According to the National Conference of State Legislators 14 states begin 2016 with higher minimum wages.  Of those, 12 have raised the minimum wage via legislation while the other two will raise the floor automatically to keep up with costs of living.  Residents in California and Massachusetts will see the highest increase to $10.00 an hour, only to be outdone in July when the minimum wage in the District of Columbia surges to $11.50 an hour.  But the workers who really have reason to celebrate this year are those working in a few, select cities.  The New York Times reports that as of yesterday, fast food workers in New York City make $10.50 an hour, and will get $15 an hour by 2018.  Similarly, employees in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle begin to reap the benefits of citywide minimums of $15 an hour being phased in this year.

Other state laws that go into effect in 2016 include California’s new gender discrimination law and Oregon’s paid sick leave mandate, says The Los Angeles Times.  California’s Fair Pay Act prohibits employers from paying employees less than those of the opposite sex when performing “substantially similar work” regardless of job title or site location.  Under Oregon’s new law, all employers with 10 or more workers must provide a minimum of 40 hours of paid sick leave.  Oregon is the fourth state to provide such leave, following Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts.

2016 will also begin with almost 90 million less individuals in the American workforce.  The exodus is part of a declining trend in labor force participation, says The Washington Examiner.  At the start of the recession 66 percent of adults had or were actively looking for work.  That number has now dropped to 63 percent and will continue to fall over the next ten years.  So where are all of the workers going?  Based on data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Examiner reports that 34 million are retirees of the baby boomer ranks.  The rest include 13.5 million working at home, 16 million in school, and an additional 16 million who are either sick or disabled.  For a fuller picture of what the labor force will look like over the coming years, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections for 2024.

On a sour note, unemployment claims rose sharply in the last minutes of 2015.  Reuters reports that the climb might be a sign that job opportunities are petering, even as the Fed recognizes the economy’s growing health, or a side effect of the holiday season coming to an end.   The jump in benefit applications comes as the unemployment rate falls past a record low of 5 percent.




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