EPI at 25:
Celebrating A Quarter Century of Success
EPI and EARN, a network of state research and policy organizations, were critical players in the fight to raise state minimum wages in the face of congressional inaction at the federal level. EPI’s data dispelled the myth that minimum-wage workers are just young workers and instead showed that they consist mainly of adults in low-income families who depend on the earnings to survive. EPI showed that a low minimum wage disproportionately affects women and minorities, and that having a fair minimum wage is pivotal to building and sustaining a strong middle class. As a result of EPI and EARN’s efforts, 34 states raised their minimum wages between 2001 and 2007, spurring Congress to raise the federal minimum wage in 2007.
No improvement in job-finding prospects since the spring
Policymakers seeking further proof that the country needs job creation programs need look no further than Wednesday’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In her analysis of the data, labor economist Heidi Shierholz noted that the number of job openings decreased by 157,000 in August to 3.1 million. Meanwhile, the most recent unemployment data from the Current Population Survey put the total number of unemployed workers in August at 14.0 million. Thus, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings was 4.6-to-1 in August, a deterioration from the July ratio of 4.3-to-1, Shierholz explained.
“August marks three years straight that the job seeker’s ratio has been at or above 3-to-1,” said Shierholz. “Put another way, we’ve exceeded the highest level reached in the early 2000s recession for the last three years straight.”
Likewise, last Friday’s BLS Employment Situation report posted grave numbers. In Miserably low job growth, Shierholz wrote that while the labor force added 103,000 jobs, this number included the 45,000 Verizon workers coming off the picket lines. When adjusted, jobs added in August were a meager 58,000—barely keeping up with population increases and all but ensuring higher unemployment in the near future.
Job loss under NAFTA offers glimpse into future under FTAs
Before the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted in 1993, EPI warned that it could result in significant job losses for American workers. On Wednesday, Congress passed the long-proposed free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, all of which pose similar threats to the U.S. economy and for American workers.
This week’s Economic Snapshot shows that while the U.S. had a small, job-supporting trade surplus with Mexico before NAFTA’s enactment in 1993, by 2010 the U.S. had a trade deficit with Mexico that displaced 682,900 jobs, with jobs lost or displaced in every state.
“With fourteen million unemployed, these deals will only further burden our domestic economy, which is already teetering on the brink of another recession,” said Robert Scott, EPI’s director of trade and manufacturing policy research.
Scott’s research on the impact of free trade agreements on the U.S. economy was cited by numerous policymakers and media outlets, including the Huffington Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Christian Science Monitor, Las Vegas Review Journal, Gannett, Bloomberg, The Hill, The Nation, and the Dylan Ratigan Show.
What’s Happening at 1333 H St?
On Thursday, October 20, at 10 a.m., the Broader Bolder Approach to Education will host an event to discuss federal support for comprehensive educational strategies. BBA National Coordinator Elaine Weiss will evaluate key aspects of relevant proposed legislation, and Reggie Felton of the National School Boards Association will moderate an audience Q&A about how Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization could better support such strategies. To attend the event, please RSVP here.
EPI on the Hill
On Wednesday, EPI co-hosted “Good Jobs for A Stronger Economy” with Demos, The National Employment Law Project, and The Center for Law and Social Policy. In addition to keynote speaker Senator Sherrod brown (D-Ohio), Harold Meyerson, Editor-at-Large of The American Prospect and columnist for The Washington Post and Heather McGhee, the Washington, D.C. director of Demos, moderated panels of noted experts.
Speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, and the Subcommittee on Health, EPI Research and Policy Director John Irons refuted claims that tens of thousands of jobs will be lost if the government sets voluntary guidelines to improve the nutritional quality of foods marketed to children. Citing findings from his recent report, Assessing the job impact of guidelines for marketing food and beverage products to children, Irons said that the implementation of such voluntary nutritional guidelines would potentially shift consumption to other products that do meet the guidelines, and advertising might even see a boost from companies that want to tout their healthy foods for children.
EPI in the News
In addition to labor market and trade analyses, EPI’s research on growing income inequality and wealth disparities were cited by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times and its Economix blog, Reuters, and Washington Post.
- New York Times: “The Economic Policy Institute has found that real hourly wages (inflation adjusted) for men without a high school education were 22 percent lower in 2007, before the recession, than in 1979. For those with only a high school education, they were 10 percent lower. The share getting benefits like health care has also declined.”
- Reuters: “The top one percent of the population held 35.6 percent of the nation’s wealth in 2009, according to a study released in March by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute. The same report showed that a decade earlier, in 1998, the top 1 percent held more than 38 percent of the wealth.”
- Andrew Fieldhouse, a federal budget policy analyst for EPI and The Century Foundation, discussed tax policies that the president and Congress could employ to lower the unemployment rate with David Gura of American Public Media’s “Marketplace.”