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EconomicPolicyInstitute April 6, 2012

This morning’s release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Situation Summary in March was an unpleasant surprise and underscores the fact that a robust jobs recovery has not yet solidified.   March growth of 120,000 is less than half the average rate of the last three months, 246,000.  The unemployment rate ticked down by one-tenth of a percent to 8.2 percent, but that was largely due to people dropping out of the labor force, not an increase in the share of the working-age population with jobs.

Asian American unemployment shaped by education, geography, nativity, and racial bias

While Asian Americans experienced annual unemployment rates slightly lower than those of whites during and immediately after the Great Recession, certain pockets of this population fared worse than white and other minority workers. The Economic Policy Institute’s new issue brief, Unfairly disadvantaged?, finds that the lower unemployment rate among Asian Americans, when compared with white workers, is due to Asian Americans’ overall higher education levels. When comparing unemployment rates between whites and Asian Americans with the same education levels of at least a bachelor’s degree, Asian Americans have a higher unemployment rate than white workers.

The report also explores why Asian Americans had the highest share of long-term unemployed (jobless for more than half a year) when compared with white, black, and Hispanic workers in 2010. That year, nearly half of all unemployed Asian Americans fell into this category.

The report reveals that Asian American workers with higher education levels face disadvantages relative to similarly educated whites in finding employment.

State unemployment data show positive trends and more work ahead

Last Friday’s state-level employment and unemployment data for February released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed continued improving labor market conditions throughout the country, but not without some causes of concern. From November 2011 to February 2012, unemployment rates in 46 states and the District of Columbia declined. Unemployment increased in only two states: New York and New Mexico. However, these increases reflected growth in the labor market, as both states had positive employment growth over the same period. Maine’s and South Dakota’s unemployment rates were unchanged.

While the latest state figures are an encouraging sign that a broader economic recovery is underway, unemployment still remains high in many parts of the country. Three states (California, Nevada, and Rhode Island) continue to have unemployment rates above 10 percent, while 10 states plus the District of Columbia have rates of 9 percent or more.

Explaining the significant role federal policy choices play in the recoveries of state economies, EPI economic analyst David Cooper wrote: “State-level economic conditions are always vulnerable to policy choices in Washington, D.C.” While the federal budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) “would shift health care costs onto states, reduce federal support of state unemployment insurance, and cut funding for critical investments in state infrastructure,” the Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget for All “would protect the middle class, provide sound economic stewardship, and maintain the federal support needed for all states to experience a full recovery,” he concluded.

Public-sector job losses have provided unprecedented drag on recovery

Since the recovery from the Great Recession officially began in June 2009, private-sector jobs are up by 2.8 million, but public-sector jobs (the combined employment in federal, state, and local governments) are down by 584,000. This week’s Economic Snapshot compares trends in public-sector employment in the last four recoveries—and finds the current recovery is the only one that has seen public-sector losses over its first 31 months.

What’s happening at 1333 H St?

Please join the Economic Policy Institute on Wednesday, April 11, for this timely forum.

A closer look at Apple and Foxconn: Labor practices in China and Brazil

In the media attention given to the labor practices of Apple’s Chinese supplier, Foxconn, and the March 29 report of its newly hired auditor, some key information has been overlooked: Foxconn’s plants in Brazil benefit from collective bargaining agreements and from wage, hour, and benefit laws that are not only in place, but which Foxconn actually follows. Foxconn’s record in Brazil shows that Apple and Foxconn are capable of making products under lawful conditions at decent wages when the local environment requires it—and that Apple and Foxconn have been taking advantage of Chinese workers simply because they believe they can get away with it.

On Wednesday, April 11, from 10:00am–12:00pm (Eastern) the Economic Policy Institute and the Worker Rights Consortium will host a forum, A closer look at Apple and FoxConn: Labor practices in China and Brazil. Debby Chan of Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) and Scott Nova of the Worker Rights Consortium will discuss labor practices at Apple’s Foxconn factories and evaluate Apple’s recent labor rights pledges in light of their actual track record. Luis Carlos de Oliveira of the Metalworkers Union of Jundiai, Brazil, will discuss his experience negotiating on behalf of workers producing Apple products at Foxconn factories in Brazil. EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey will moderate.

This event is free, but we ask that you register HERE.

EPI across town

EPI’s Ethan Pollack discusses budget policy priorities at National Journal summit

On Wednesday, March 29, Ethan Pollack, EPI senior policy analyst, joined fellow budget experts from several organizations for a panel discussion at the National Journal policy summit “Budget Review: Leading Policy Priorities for Sustained Growth.” The other guests included Jim Tankersley, economics correspondent, National Journal; Steve Bell, senior director of economic policy, Bipartisan Policy Center; and Laura Peterson, senior policy analyst, Taxpayers for Common Sense. During the discussion, the panelists analyzed aspects from each of the leading budget proposals to pinpoint which policies would best improve the economy.

During the panel, Pollack emphasized the urgent need to implement policies that create jobs now and stimulate long-term economic growth. “Budgeting is about tradeoffs, but there are a lot of policies out there–like infrastructure investment—that create jobs in the short run, boost long-run economic growth, and help get the budget on a sustainable path,” said Pollack.

EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey discusses improvements in Department of Labor’s new H-2B rule at AFL-CIO congressional briefing

Last Friday, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey joined economic, civil rights, labor, and immigration experts at a congressional briefing, “Comprehensive new rule makes H-2B program more fair, better for workers and economy,” to discuss the Department of Labor’s comprehensive final rule change that will make improvements to the H-2B visa program. Organized by the AFL-CIO, the briefing focused on how the new rule strengthens protections for U.S. and H-2B guest workers and allows employers to hire more seasonal workers to fit their needs.

Eisenbrey and the other panelists—Tanya Clay House, director of public policy for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Father Clete Kiley, director of immigration policy for UNITE-HERE; and Rachel Micah-Jones, founder and executive director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.—provided insight into how the new rule’s advancement of workers’ rights also expands immigrant and civil rights while improving the U.S. economy.

Touting the economic benefits of the change, Eisenbrey said, “Employers claim there are no U.S. workers for jobs in landscaping and hotels, but when qualified U.S. workers show up, they want the right not to hire them.  This rule gives U.S. workers a fair shot at jobs before employers go abroad to hire.”

EPI in the news

  • EPI labor economist Heidi Shierholz discussed the disproportionate job gains among men with Bloomberg’s Lorraine Woellert.  “Men and women saw the same rate of job loss in the first two years,” said Shierholz. But “since then, it’s not been equal. In the recovery, men have seen disproportionate job gains.”
  • For the article “Warren Buffett On The Environment, Businesses Can’t Take ‘Shortcuts,’” business reporter Alexander Eichler examined the economic benefits of regulations and cited EPI acting research and policy director Josh Bivensto counter conservative arguments against regulations:In contrast to conservative opponents of regulations, “Josh Bivens of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has argued that strong environmental regulations are helpful in a weak economy, since they create new employment opportunities without causing the kind of price spikes that hurt consumers and consumption.”
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