News & Commentary

October 24, 2018

The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in decades: it dipped to 3.7 percent in September, lower than its been since 1969. But unlike past years with record-low unemployment, wage growth is lower “almost any way its measured,” according to a new analysis by the Upshot. The analysis compares today’s labor market to the booming economy in 2000 and 2001, finding that in both periods, unemployment was identically low, job openings were high, and people long separated from the labor force are returning. But wage growth is far lower now than on the eve of the 2001 recession, and increases in benefits don’t explain the difference: in recent years, the non-wage share of compensation has grown slowly as well. The authors say that low wages are a mystery — but point out that lower labor bargaining power, driven by falling unionization, may be contributing.

The city of Austin, Texas passed a paid sick leave ordinance earlier this year. Now, business groups are funding a new coalition to push statewide preemption of paid leave ordinances. The Alliance for Securing and Strengthening the Economy in Texas — ASSET — includes sixteen business groups seeking statewide legislation that would bar municipalities from passing local workers’ rights laws that they say would disadvantage business. Several of the groups are already involved in a legal challenge to Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance, which extends paid leave to workers at businesses with more than 15 employees. They are also targeting a similar ordinance passed by the San Antonio City Council in August.

Thousands of Glasgow women are striking for equal pay, disrupting primary schools, nurseries, and homecare industries. An estimated 8,000 workers walked off the job yesterday, making the strike the largest action for equal pay in the UK since the passage of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. The strike follows years of legal disputes, and inaction by the Glasgow City Council, over unequal pay for approximately 12,000 women workers, who are paid up to £3 an hour less than public employees in male-dominated fields. The 48-hour strike has closed schools and nurseries across the city.

The vast majority of older working Americans don’t have enough savings to retire at age 65 with their pre-retirement standard of living, according to a new report issued by the Stanford Center of Longevity (SCL). About one-third of baby boomers report that they have not been able to save anything for retirement. The report suggests that older workers will either have to work beyond the age of 65, reduce their quality of life, or both. The average Social Security income for new retirees in 2017 was $1,460 a month, or $17,520 a year — which the Stanford study says is inadequate to bridge the gap between older Americans’ savings and desired quality of life.

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