Blog postings by CEPR staff and updates on the latest briefings and activities at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

We wanted to be sure that you saw the latest paper by CEPR Co-Founder and Senior Economist Dean Baker, "The Housing Bubble and the Great Recession: Ten Years Later." We released the report on the 10th anniversary of the peak of the financial crisis. Had the powers that be listened to Dean — who first warned about the growth of the bubble in 2002  — millions of people could have avoided financial ruin.

And what’s amazing is that there are STILL those who say that “No One” saw it coming. Thankfully, Dean, aka “No One”, is still around to call them out.

This is why we need CEPR’s work now, more than ever. In a world where fake news reigns, CEPR’s factual and timely research and analysis is the perfect antidote. Consider making a donation to CEPR to ensure that we continue to fight for economic justice.

CEPR recently received a message from a supporter thanking Dean for his work. He came across Dean’s work in the early 2000s, and he took actions that spared his family from losing everything when the recession hit. We want this for everyone. With your help, we can continue to provide the research and analysis that champions an economy that works for everyone, not just the elites.

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The core inflation rate slowed to 0.1 percent in August, its lowest rate since April. This brought the year-over-year inflation rate in the core index to 2.2 percent. A 1.9 percent jump in energy prices brought the overall rate to 0.2 percent in August and 2.7 percent over the last year.

Inflation was well contained in almost all areas of the core except shelter. The core index excluding shelter actually fell by 0.1 percent in August. This index is up by just 1.3 percent over the last year and shows no evidence of any acceleration over the last five years.

Traditional problem areas in the core seem well under control. The medical care index fell by 0.2 percent for the second consecutive month. It is up 1.5 percent over the last year. Education did rise by 0.5 percent in August, but it is still up by just 2.7 percent over the last year. The index for auto insurance, which has been a major contributor to inflation, was flat in August. It is up 6.4 percent over the last year, but has been rising considerably less rapidly in recent months.

Overall, inflation seems well under control outside of shelter.

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Today’s report from Census on income, poverty, and health insurance in 2017 holds little good news for young people.

  • Overall median household income increased modestly (1.8 percent) in 2017. This increase was largely due to increases in income for households headed by people age 34–64. By contrast, there was no significant increase in median income for households headed by people age 25–34, and a decline for households headed by those under age 25.

  • The overall health uninsurance rate remained flat at 8.8 percent. It also remained flat (at 15.6 percent) for people age 26–34, but increased by nearly 1 percentage point (to 14 percent) among people age 19–25.

  • The percentage of young people (18–34) who worked full-time, year-round increased slightly (about 0.7 of a percentage point).  There was no change in the percentage (about one-in-four) who did not work during the year.

  • Median earnings for full-time, year-round young workers (18–34) were effectively flat (at about $38,000) in 2017.

  • Median earnings for young women working full-time, year-round in 2017 were $35,000 compared to $40,000 for young men working full-time, year round. There was no change in the gender wage gap.

  • The overall poverty rate trend depends on the measure used — it was effectively flat (down a non-statistically significant 0.1 percentage point) using the Supplemental Poverty Measure (which includes a more comprehensive, post-tax, post-transfer income measure) and down slightly (0.4 percentage points, to 12.3 percent) using the antiquated, but still official poverty measure. Among young people (18–34), the official poverty rate was 13.6 percent in 2017, a probably insignificant decline from 13.9 percent in 2016. We don’t have an SPM poverty rate for young people yet, but there is little reason to think the trend differs from the overall SPM rate.

Young people are more educated than ever. The share of adults age 25–34 with a B.A. degree (39 percent) is now 10 percentage points higher than it was at the start of the millennium. Just under 8 percent of young adults lack a high school degree, compared to about 12 percent in 2000. Yet, 25–34 year-olds are more likely to be poor today than they were in both 1990 and 2000. Perhaps this explains some of young people’s well-documented dissatisfaction with US-style capitalism.

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CEPR compiles recent research to illustrate the state of labor in the United States.

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Driverless? Autonomous Trucks and the Future of the American Trucker

With the rising prevalence of autonomous driving vehicles, Steve Vescelli breaks down how this new technology could affect the trucking industry, and poses policy considerations.

 

Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

The New Wave of Local Minimum Wage Policies: Evidence from Six Cities

Sylvia Allegretto, Anna Godoey, Carl Nadler and Michael Reich examine how increases in minimum wages have affected employment outcomes in Chicago, DC, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.

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After increasing for 12 consecutive months, manufacturing employment fell by 3,000 in August. The decline was all in manufacturing of durables, which lost 4,000 jobs. Employment in non-durable manufacturing rose by 1,000. The auto industry was the biggest loser, giving up 4,900 jobs after losing 3,500 jobs in July. The weakness also shows up in the index of hours, which dropped 0.3 percent for durable manufacturing in August.

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NPR reports that the “Trump administration is considering penalizing legal immigrants for using government benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps…”

NPR’s story is very good, but it also minimizes the radical scope of the Trump “public charge” proposal, which goes far beyond penalizing the receipt of means-tested benefits.

In fact, under the draft Trump proposal, an immigration official could deny a green card simply based on a judgment that an immigrant is “likely at any time” in the future to receive a single means-tested benefit or service for any period of time. As a practical matter, merely being potentially eligible for an income-tested benefit or service would be enough for immigration officials to deny a green card to an immigrant who otherwise meets all other criteria for a family-based visa. Moreover, immigration officials would be able to require immigrants to obtain bonds of $10,000 or more that they would then forfeit to the government if they ever received any means-tested benefit in the future.

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In 2015, CEPR modeled what would happen to unemployment rates for black workers if unemployment fell further. The model found that, if overall unemployment and unemployment for whites specifically, declined more, black workers would disproportionately benefit. In the past, the unemployment rate for black workers has been about two times higher than the rate for white workers, and the rate for black teens has been about six times higher. This means that if the white unemployment rate was allowed to fall one percentage point, the rate for black workers would fall two percentage points and that for black teens would fall six percentage points.

Since 2015, the unemployment rate for white workers fell one percentage point. What happened to the rate for black workers overall and that for black teens? The rate for black workers overall fell 2.4 percentage points, and the rate for black teens fell 5.8 percentage points (this is a 12-month moving average since the data for black teens is erratic). In other words, the actual data fits the model very well.

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For millions of retirees, Social Security is more than just a part of their retirement income ― in many cases it is the vast majority of their retirement income. Social Security benefits account for half of family income for roughly 50 percent of those over the age of 65. The percentage of families in which Social Security benefits account for at least half of their retirement income rises to 70 percent for blacks and Hispanics. Benefits are roughly 90 percent of income for one in four of those 65 or older.

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You may be familiar with CEPR’s economic research. But did you know that there is a program at CEPR that works to ensure that political appointees are focused on serving the public interest, rather than personal professional advancement?

Practically alone in Washington DC, the Revolving Door Project (RDP)—based at CEPR—applies pressure on both Democrats and Republicans to administer the executive branch on behalf of the common interest rather than personal interest. From Wall Street insiders seeking jobs in a potential Hillary Clinton Administration to Steven Mnuchin, Mick Mulvaney, Wilbur Ross, and the rest of President Trump’s ethically compromised team, the Revolving Door Project has a proven track record of identifying and scrutinizing the selfish.

“The deepest rules of our rigged economy are usually written by people who hold key but obscure jobs within the executive branch. From the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to the CFPB, FTC, and SEC, the Revolving Door Project highlights corrupt personnel while pushing for appointees committed to fighting for the public interest rather than cashing in.”

— Jeff Hauser, Director of the Revolving Door Project

With the Trump Administration continuing to staff the executive branch with the greediest among us, we really need your support for this crucial program. Won’t you consider making a donation to CEPR to help fund this work? We rely on the generosity of individuals like you to fund our research, analysis, media work, outreach – everything we do.

Thanks in advance for your support!

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CEPR compiles recent research to illustrate the state of labor in the United States.

Center for American Progress

In light of strong GDP growth projections, Madowitz and Hanlon explore how such gains fail to improve the living standards of the working class

GDP Is Growing, but Workers’ Wages Aren’t


EPI

Jones and Shierholz break down the motivations behind Right-To-Work legislation and detail the ramifications RTW laws would have in Missouri

Right to Work is Wrong for Missouri


National Women’s Law Center

All too often employers deny pregnant workers temporary accommodations that would allow these women to work safely. This report highlights the protections afforded to pregnant workers by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Ensure Healthy Pregnancies and Job Security: Treat Pregnant Workers Fairly

This report provides examples of the ways in which different stakeholders have implemented new policies, practices, and strategies to strengthen support for parents in low-wage jobs

Stepping Up: New Policies and Strategies Supporting Parents in Low-Wage Jobs and Their Children


NELP     
                

Corporate profits have been used overwhelmingly to increase shareholder value. In this report, Tung and Milani quantify how such profits could instead improve the lives of workers.

Curbing Stock Buybacks: A Crucial Step to Raising Worker Pay and Reducing Inequality


IRLE

As concern for the low wages of app-based drivers grows, this report analyzes the implications of the New York City and Limousine Commission’s proposal to implement a minimum driver pay standard.

An Earnings Standard for New York City’s App-based Drivers: Economic Analysis and Policy Assessment


Urban Institute

This study examines how rising wage inequality and a boost in the federal minimum wage might affect future retirement income

Growing Wage Inequality, the Minimum Wage, and the Future Distribution of Retirement Income

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The unemployment rate for workers without a high school degree fell to 5.1 percent in July, the lowest rate since the Bureau of Labor Statistics adjusted its education measures in 1992. This is 1.9 percentage points below its year-ago rate.

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Twenty-five years ago, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) went into effect. The law had a transformative effect on the US workplace. For the first time, employers were required to provide covered employees with unpaid leave for medical- and family-related purposes. This meant that that working people were now able to take up to 12 weeks of leave a year to bond with a new child, recover from serious illness, or care for a child, partner or parent suffering from a serious illness without fear of losing their jobs. Since implementation, women and men have used the FMLA for leave over 200 million times. The FMLA provides greater freedom for those employees covered and remains a remarkable first step towards the goal of balancing “the needs of the workplace with the needs of families.” But the law was just that, a first step.

Despite the new protections the law gave to working people, the United States continues to lag behind most other nations. In fact, we are the only country besides Papua New Guinea that offers no nation-wide paid maternity leave.

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From 2001 to 2013, college enrollment in the US increased rapidly. Young people delayed the full-time work portion of their lives, ostensibly to seek skills for an evolving set of jobs. Trends since 2014, however, suggest that the increase in education is not an entirely structural change. Over the past few years, a tighter labor market has been leading more young people to full-time work, suggesting that a weak labor market, rather than simply concern over a changing set of jobs, was pushing some young people to enroll from 2001 to 2013.

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Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a 4.1 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the strongest pace since a 4.9 percent rate in the third quarter of 2014. (Growth had been 5.1 percent in the second quarter.) By far the largest contributor to this growth was a 4.0 percent rate of increase in consumption spending. This was a bounce back from the first quarter when growth was just 0.5 percent. Durable goods consumption (primarily cars) were the biggest part of this story, with spending rising at a 9.3 percent annual rate.

Nonresidential investment grew at a healthy 7.3 percent annual rate. This brought the investment share of GDP to 13.6 percent, although it is still below the prerecession peak of 13.7 percent and far below the levels hit in the 1990s boom or the 1970s. The largest contributor to this growth was structure investment, which rose at a 13.3 percent rate after rising at a 13.9 percent rate in the first quarter. By contrast, equipment investment rose at just a 3.9 percent rate. This is not a story very consistent with tax cut driven investment, since structure investment generally takes far longer to plan than equipment investment.

It is likely that almost all of the structure spending in this quarter or the prior quarter was planned long before the details of the tax cut were known.

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On Tuesday, a House committee will consider a bill — H.R. 4219 — whose purpose is to preempt the paid sick days laws already passed in 10 states, the District of Columbia, and cities and counties across the country.

Mislabeled as the “Workflex” bill, it denies workers the flexibility to use paid time off when they need it. In addition, it undermines the rights employees have under state and local laws to earn paid sick days and to use them when they or their children need a day or two to recover from illness. Instead, the bill gives corporate employers the flexibility to decide whether and when a mother can use paid time off to stay home with a sick child. And, it fails to protect that mother from retaliation by her employer for using the paid sick days she has earned.

Like much other legislation opposed by the big business lobby, this bill is a solution in search of a problem. Professor Ruth Milkman and I conducted surveys and interviews at large and small companies in Connecticut and New York City after those jurisdictions passed laws that allowed workers to earn paid sick days.

These surveys revealed that, for most employers, implementing the law’s provisions was a non-event. In New York City, 94 percent of employers reported no change in productivity and 2 percent reported that productivity increased after the paid sick days law passed. In Connecticut, after a year-and-a-half of experience with the state’s earned paid sick days law, more than three-quarters of employers reported that they supported it.

The so-call Workflex bill is an affront to democracy as it calls on the federal government to undermine the right of voters or their elected representatives to pass laws that protect workers’ health and their ability to care for themselves and their children. False flag laws that pretend to give workers paid sick days but actually create a means for large corporations to evade state and local sick days provisions must be opposed.

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In a new report, Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) claims only about 1 out of every 33 Americans have income below the poverty line. This compares with about 1 out of 7 Americans according to the Census Bureau.

Why such a big difference? About half comes from using consumption data rather than income, and the other half comes from assuming the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) has been substantially overstating inflation since 1980.

By Trump’s CEA calculations, the official poverty threshold — $25,283 for a family of four in 2017 — is much higher than what families need to pay for housing, food, transportation, and other things needed to raise children while living at a minimally decent level.

How much income does Trump’s CEA calculate is needed to live decently? They don’t say in the report, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) report they rely on doesn’t disclose the dollar amount either. But, according to Luke Shaefer and Joshua Rivera at the University of Michigan — who have written an important working paper that looks at the AEI report — the AEI-adjusted poverty threshold for a family of four ends up being only $17,000 in 2011. Updating this for inflation since 2011 (using AEI’s adjustment method), I get $17,700 as today’s Trump Poverty Line for a couple raising two kids.

It’s interesting to compare the Trump Poverty Line with what most Americans think they need to live above the poverty line. According to AEI’s own public opinion research, this was $33,000 in 2016, or nearly twice the amount Trump’s CEA calculates will do.

If the Trump administration really thinks that a family of four can live decently on less than $18,000 a year, they should be transparent about it. If they don’t, they need to rewrite their report.

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The “Lost Decade” historically refers to the economic failures in Latin America during the 1980s. Starting in 1980, the region’s real per capita GDP fell 9 percent over the next three years and did not fully recover until 1994. More recently, Japan’s experience in the post-bubble 1990s has also been described as a lost decade.

However, such a connection is quite unfair. While Japan was very much a developed country by the 1990s, Latin America was developing in the 1980s, and had a lot of catching up to do, in terms of economic growth. Latin America in the 1980s should have grown much more rapidly than Japan in the 1990s. Yet from 1992 to 1999, Japan grew 5 percent per capita and 15 percent over 14 years — significant in contrast to the zero growth in Latin America over the same length of time.

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Shelter costs continue to be the main factor driving inflation. While the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up 2.9 percent over the last year and the core index was up 2.3 percent, the core excluding shelter rose just 1.4 percent over the last year.

In the month of June, the non-shelter core was up 0.2 percent. Insofar as rising inflation can be viewed as a problem, it is overwhelmingly a story whereby a limited supply of land combined with building restrictions create a shortage of housing. This is largely a West Coast phenomenon, where inflation in the shelter index has been in the 4 to 5 percent range. The rate of increase in rents has been considerably lower in other regions of the country.

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At a time when we have a president grabbing kids away from their parents and a Supreme Court about to move even further to the right, the impact of auto insurance on inflation may not seem the most pressing matter. But there are aspects to the issue that are informative about how we measure and think about inflation.

First, the importance of auto insurance in overall inflation seems to have gone largely unnoticed. In the last year, it has passed medical care as a driver of inflation. The motor vehicle insurance component of the consumer price index (CPI), which has a weight of 2.4 percent in the overall index, has added more than 0.21 percentage points to the inflation rate over the last year. By contrast, medical care has added just 0.19 percentage points.

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After a long hiatus CEPR is pleased to relaunch its Labor Market Policy Research Reports. The following pieces serve to illustrate the state of Labor in the United States:

Center for Economics and Policy Research

CEPR Senior Economist Dean Baker compares hours worked among wealthy countries, discusses the benefits and drawbacks of work sharing, and offers policy proposals in:

Can Work Sharing Bring the US Workplace into the 20th Century?


Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

An empirical examination of the fallout of the Great Recession and the potential damage avoided thanks to fiscal stimulus and stabilization policies.

Chart Book: The Legacy of the Great Recession

A comparison of the extent of unemployment compensation afforded to workers in each state.

Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available?


Economic Policy Institute

Accounting for metrics like education and migration status, this report compares the employment and wage outcomes of Hispanics and White men from 1979 to 2017.

The Hispanic-White Wage Gap has Remained Wide and Relatively Steady


New School: Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis

This data summary examines earnings, pension status, participation and employment rates of workers over the age of 55.

June 2018 Unemployment Report for Workers over 55


UC Berkeley Labor Center

In its third installment The Union effect in California explores the passage of major labor-backed laws since 2011.

The Union Effect in California #3: A Voice for Workers in Public Policy 

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In spite of another large jump in employment in June, wage growth does not appear to be accelerating. The average hourly wage has increased by just 2.7 percent in the last year.

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