Are February’s Disappointing Jobs Numbers the Start of a New Trend or Just a Blip?

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The Labor Department released its monthly jobs report on Friday, and it was a… good one? Bad one? O.K. one?

Manufacturing gained 4,000 new jobs in February, while 20,000 new jobs were created across the economy. That was well below expectations of around 180,000 new jobs.

Over at the White House, President Trump shrugged off the report, and some economists also said they weren’t all that concerned. After all, wages are on the rise, suggesting things are still strong. Unemployment rates for workers who didn’t graduate high school fell 5.3 percent, a sign that the economy is still doing just fine.

Meanwhile, the weather was pretty brutal across the country in February, which probably slowed hiring down quite a bit.

But not everybody is so confident. After all, 20,000 jobs isn’t great, especially when you consider that factory jobs alone had grown by an average of 22,000 new jobs per month over the past 12 months.

“This is a disappointing report. I don’t think there’s any way to sugarcoat it,” Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist of Northern Trust in Chicago, told the New York Times.

So who has it right?

We just don’t know for sure. But we do know that there are policies that will help grow the economy and keep job growth strong, especially in manufacturing.

Infrastructure seems like a good place to start. While “Infrastructure Week” has become a jokein political circles these days, there is a reason why it is the one thing that can bring business and labor together – it will create jobs and boost the economy. If an infrastructure investment package includes strong Buy America preferences, that’s even better.

Meanwhile, more investment is also needed in federal R&D partnerships like the Manufacturing USA institutes, and we need to train the next generation of workers for high tech jobs.

Then there’s the impending trade deal with China. Manufacturers need a tough, enforceable deal that takes on China’s trade cheating and levels the playing field for American workers and businesses.

As always, we’ll keep a close eye on the manufacturing jobs numbers to see whether the hiring slowdown continues, or if February's numbers are indeed just a blip.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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