Weekend News and Commentary – April 4-5
According to the March jobs report that was released Friday, the United States “added only 126,000 jobs in March, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5 percent. Those terrific numbers from January and February now look a bit less terrific, as revisions subtracted 69,000 positions from the previously reported job gains,” reports The New York Times. The New York Times reports in a different article that the job numbers indicate that the American economy is clearly slowing, with author Justin Wolfers writing that workers and employers have a “degree of dissipating optimism.” The New York Times Editorial Board writes that it will “take another few months to see if the unexpectedly dismal job market in March was a fluke or the start of something bad,” but believes that “[t]he Fed should proceed cautiously and Congress should act boldly.”
In an article titled “It’s Not the Inequality; It’s the Immobility,” The New York Times writes that economic inequality and immobility should not be lumped together, but should be seen as two separate indicators of economic health. Author Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason, writes: “Income equality is about bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, while economic mobility is about elevating the poor as rapidly as possible. Finding ways to increase economic mobility should be our greater concern.”
The New York Times highlights “nontraditional” college students who are over 50 years old and attending college for a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in a new career field. By 2030, the number of Americans 65 and older will grow to 72 million, according to the United States Census Bureau, but colleges and universities have paid scant attention to the needs of this older population. “It makes no sense, however, to have an educational system that ends in the 20s when people are likely to be working into their 80s,” said Laura L. Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. Colleges and universities across America are working on development of online courses and programs specifically for older students to meet these needs.
The legal services sector of the American economy was “stagnant” in the month of March, reports The Wall Street Journal. The sector lost 1,200 jobs in March. The total number of legal jobs now stands at 1,119,400, around the number where it’s rested over the past year, but “still tens of thousands short of where the sector stood from 2003 to 2007, before the last recession.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that when two teachers at Little Oaks School in California refused to provide a “pastoral reference,” they were fired from their jobs at a religious preschool. Yet on March 23, a judge in Ventura County ruled the school was within its rights to fire teachers Lynda Serrano and Mary Ellen Guevara. Because the preschool teachers instructed children about religion, the judge ruled, they functioned in a “ministerial capacity.” In 2012, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of “ministerial employees” to include teachers. Ministers who work for churches or religious groups are generally not entitled to civil rights protections, reports the LA Times.
The Los Angeles Times writes that California’s trade workers are in a “prime position” to benefit from Governor Jerry Brown’s state infrastructure projects. The paper reports that Governor Brown’s agenda includes “[a high-speed] rail network, a replumbing of California’s waterworks and long-delayed repairs to state roads and bridges.”
In international news, The New York Times reports that over 300 migrant fishermen who had been enslaved on trawlers for years rode those same vessels to freedom on Saturday after a “daring rescue from a remote Indonesian island where they had lived in fear of being beaten or killed by their captors.” The men from Myanmar, along with others from Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, were among hundreds of migrant workers who had been lured or tricked into getting on boats bound for Indonesia, according to an Associated Press investigation.
The New York Times reports that Mayor Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, dismissed reports that layoffs of construction workers at one of the main 2016 Olympic sites could result in potentially damaging delays to construction. The mayor said that the layoffs by the main Olympic construction company were part of a strategy to force the City Council to make quicker payments for the project.