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EconomicPolicyInstitute May 16, 2008

EPI Senior Economist Jared Bernstein, who has been tracking the economic downturn through a series of worsening jobs numbers, noted this week that real earnings for most Americans have declined for seven straight months. A chart combining stagnant wages, inflation, and shrinking work hours vividly portrays the squeeze that workers are increasingly feeling.

Job angst is not limited to blue-collar workers in off-shored industries: even college graduates are seeing declines in earnings in this tough market. This week’s EPI Snapshot shows that wages for male and female grads are substantially lower now than they were in 2001, just before the last recession. Grads are also less likely to get health benefits or a pension on the job. Not surprisingly, women ranked behind men in both wages and benefits, although the gap is shrinking.

In light of the continuing bad economic news (including steadily rising foreclosures and slumping retail sales), EPI has renewed calls for greater stimulus spending by the federal government. Stimulus checks from the bipartisan agreement reached in February are in the mail this month, but as a new Policy Memo notes, much more effective ways of jumpstarting the economy, such as spending on infrastructure or direct aid to states, are needed.

On the education front
An opinion piece by EPI President Lawrence Mishel and co-authors Sylvia Allegretto and Sean Corcoran, based on their new book The Teaching Penalty, appeared in Education Week, arguing that quality teachers cannot be recruited and retained on the cheap. Meanwhile, EPI Research Associate Richard Rothstein assessed the Reagan’s administration’s influential report on education—A Nation at Risk—25 years after its publication for the Cato Institute.

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