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EconomicPolicyInstitute June 22, 2012

The typical American family saw its net worth fall 39 percent after the collapse of the housing bubble, according to newly released Federal Reserve data. This week’s Economic Snapshot illustrates how younger families were hardest hit, with those in the 35–44 age group—the age when families start getting serious about saving for retirement—experiencing a 54 percent drop between 2007 and 2010. Click here to see what this means.

Los Angeles rail project illustrates that public investment creates jobs

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is undertaking the 30/10 Initiative, which will fund a range of transportation infrastructure projects aimed at accelerating the improvement of the region’s transportation system. One component of this initiative is a $1.1 billion investment in new railcars through 2019. In Assessing the economic benefits of increased investment in Los Angeles’s public transit infrastructure, EPI economic analyst David Cooper calculates that the railcar investment will create over 500 jobs in the Los Angeles region. He explains this is a positive step, but falls short of the 1,400 projected regional jobs that could have been created by alternate producers.

“Los Angeles’s project shows the promise of public investment if it is done right,” said Cooper. “Policymakers in municipalities throughout the country and in Washington should take notice of the job-creating potential of public investments like this one in L.A.” Click here to learn more.

Is teacher churn undermining real education reform in D.C.?

In last Friday’s Washington Post, EPI research associate Mark Simon contributed the opinion piece “Is teacher churn undermining real education reform in D.C.?” In the article, Simon argues that while D.C.’s plan to improve high school graduation rates by focusing on teacher talent is appealing in theory, it has had the unintended effect of pushing out highly talented educators and leaving “uninspired teachers in place.” In addition, D.C. is spending millions to hire and replace teachers, with no accompanying gain in school performance. Click here to read the full piece.

Ratio of unemployed workers to job openings increases

Tuesday’s release of the April Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings, the job-seekers ratio, increased in April to 3.7-to-1 from March’s ratio of 3.4-to-1. In her analysis of the data, EPI economist Heidi Shierholz noted that despite this increase, the ratio has been slowly but steadily improving since its peak of 6.7-to-1 in summer 2009. “It is likely that April’s increase represents a month-to-month variability in the data rather than a reversal of that trend,” she explained.

State employment numbers echo slow national growth for May

Last Friday’s release of state-level employment and unemployment data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics echoed the slow national employment growth in May, with 16 states experiencing job loss in the preceding three-month period (February 2012 to May 2012). “The continued erosion of public-sector employment highlights the extent to which policymakers at both the national and state levels have undermined economic recovery through shortsighted austerity measures,” wrote EPI’s Doug Hall, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network. (Click here for interactive state maps.)

Informing the dialogue

With families across the country overwhelmingly worried about the state of the labor market and how the wage trends of the last three decades have affected their ability to make ends meet, top news sources have found EPI’s research to be a critical resource. EPI’s work has recently been cited in major media outlets that include the New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, American Prospect, and Reuters.

“Adjusted for inflation, the median hourly wage was lower in 2011 than it was a decade earlier, according to data from a forthcoming book by the Economic Policy Institute, ‘The State of Working America, 12th Edition.’ Good benefits are harder to come by, and people are staying longer in jobs that they want to leave, afraid that they will not be able to find something better. Only 2.1 million people quit their jobs in March, down from the 2.9 million people who quit in December 2007, the first month of the recession.

“’Unfortunately, the wage problems brought on by the recession pile on top of a three-decade stagnation of wages for low- and middle-wage workers,’ said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, a research group in Washington that studies the labor market. ‘In the aftermath of the financial crisis, there has been persistent high unemployment as households reduced debt and scaled back purchases. The consequence for wages has been substantially slower growth across the board, including white-collar and college-educated workers.’”

  • Writing about the grim job prospects awaiting recent graduates, USA Today’s Chuck Raasch wrote, “The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute called their [new graduates] labor market ‘grim’ and said that over the previous year, unemployment among college graduates younger than 25 had averaged 9.4%, with an additional 19.1% in jobs for which they were overqualified.”
  • Explaining the findings from this week’s Economic Snapshot, Taylor Thomas from the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch wrote, “Data released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that younger families age 35-44 were the hardest hit by the collapse of the housing bubble…The EPI, a liberal-leaning think tank based in Washington, expressed particular concern in the drop because most families start saving for retirement at this age and because younger families will have to save more than previous generations due to expected declines in pensions and Social Security benefits.”
  • And speaking to American Prospect’s Abby Rapoport, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey explained that long-term, well-structured, education-centered job training programs are “the kind of training that makes a difference,” in contrast to the short-term, job-placement-oriented programs that most federal dollars for job training fund.
From the EPI Blog
Monique Morrissey
What’s up (or down) with the Boomers’ Retirement Savings?!
Ross Eisenbrey
LA Hotel Workers Win $15.37 Minimum Wage: a New Day for Labor in the United States?
Josh Bivens
Now It’s Explicit: Fighting Inflation Is a War to Ensure That Real Wages for the Vast Majority Never Grow
Valerie Wilson
2013 ACS Shows Depth of Native American Poverty and Different Degrees of Economic Well-Being for Asian Ethnic Groups
David Cooper
ACS Data Show Almost No Improvement in State Poverty Rates
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