Weekend News and Commentary — March 5-6, 2016
The New York Times questions whether the labor movement will continue to have the kind of political impact on the election as it has in the past. With union membership down to just 11% of American workers (compared to 31% in 1960), the typically left-leaning movement struggles more and more to compete with Republican-leaning super PACs. There’s still evidence that union voters in 2012 made the difference for President Obama in key states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, but it’s unclear whether labor will make as big of an effort this year.
Also per the NYT, the Labor Department’s employment survey shows that the American workforce rose by 555,000 people in the month of February (bringing that number to 1.52 million for the past 3 months). While this is obviously moving in a positive direction, it’s unclear how much more the labor market can grow, especially in the long term. Also significant is that despite this substantial increase in the number of workers, average hourly earnings have remained low, rising a mere 2.2% over the last year. This rate “hardly suggests the kind of booming economy indicated by the low unemployment rate” — one explanation is that there’s a pool of “shadow workers” who are employable and open to accepting a job when the opportunity arises, but are not actively looking for work. The question in the coming months is whether participation will continue to increase absent stronger wage growth.
According to the Wall Street Journal, one demographic in particular has reason to be excited about the recently-released jobs report. By at least two metrics, millenials (age 25-34) seem to be faring better when it comes to employment than they have at any other time during the economic recovery. According to the survey, millenials gained 421,000 new jobs in February and enjoyed an employment-population ratio of 77.1% (the highest it’s been since November 2008). This may seem only natural since millenials are the largest and most educated generation in the U.S.; however, many have been swimming against the current thus far due to crippling student debt and an inability to obtain high-paying jobs.
Finally, this piece in the New York Times underlines some helpful tax tips for workers engaged in the gig economy.