News & Commentary

March 8, 2016

The labor force participation rate inched up last month to 62.9%, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The increase follows years of decline and reflects the country’s strongest hiring trends since the 1990s.  Despite the good news, experts don’t expect the rate to continue to drop.  Although they acknowledge the strength of the hiring, they note that nonbusiness factors will weigh on the participation rate in the future.  Key among these is the expected retirement of the baby-boomer generation. “It’s not that the cyclical component isn’t there. It’s that the aging component is there and growing,” remarked University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson.

Sunday’s Democratic debate highlighted one issue where Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz agree: the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that finances purchases of goods sold abroad by U.S. companies.  According to the Washington Post, Senator Cruz acknowledged this alignment over the summer when he said, “I’ll give credit to Senator Sanders for standing up against corporate welfare.”  During the debate, Hillary Clinton argued that the Bank actually turned a profit for the federal government, but Sanders responded by pointing out that Boeing was the bank’s largest beneficiary and added, “Many of these corporations have shut down in America, and have gone abroad to exploit poor people….I don’t think it’s a great idea for the American taxpayer to have to subsidize through corporate welfare profitable corporations who downsize in the United States of America.”

Older tech workers have struggled to find employment matched to their skills in the Boston jobs market, according to the Boston Globe.  The article identified three factors contributing to this problem: age discrimination by employers, older workers’ reluctance to commute from outer suburbs to Boston and Cambridge, and the difficulty of maintaining relevant skills in a field where the technology changes rapidly.  Nevertheless, the overwhelming factor appears to be age discrimination, and the article contained several distressing anecdotes on this front, from a recruiter stating her belief that sending a resume of an older worker would result in the company “laughing at” her and accusing her of “wasting [their] time” to a worker reporting greater interest after wiping off the first 25 years of his resume and another dying her hair and avoiding talk about her kids.

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