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Marketplace of Ideas

It’s back to work and back to school after the summer holidays. This week, we bring you a jobs-themed update on the latest economic news:

  •  McDonald—Not Lovin ItStrikes by fast food workers hit over 100 cities on Thursday, with sit-ins prompting arrests in multiple locations. The National Council of Chain Restaurants dismissed the action, calling it “choreographed” and “illegal.” The demonstrations are part of a two-year-long battle for a bump in pay to $15 per hour and union representation. NBC reports a consensus among “labor experts” that the movement is unlikely to yield higher wages in the near-term, but it has focused the nation’s attention on the plight of low-wage workers. The Guardian must be talking to different labor experts. It reports that the fast-food strikes are working, prompting a revitalization of labor unions and ballot initiatives to hike the minimum wage in Seattle, Nevada, and elsewhere.

  • In Seattle, where a minimum wage hike was passed in June, trouble enforcing the new law has led to claims of wage theft. The New York Times reports a “flood of recent cases” involving violations of minimum wage and overtime laws, as well as tip confiscation and falsification of hours worked. Small business magazine Inc. claims that most incidents of wage theft are accidental, stemming from employers’ ignorance of labor laws. But it’s not just small business owners that are coming under fire: Cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders NFL team this week won a $1.25 million settlement on a class-action wage theft lawsuit which claimed their compensation amounted to $5 per hour. Similar suits are pending against the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, and New York Jets.
  • “Slowdown in hiring brings letdown on growth outlook.” That was the headline in the Wall Street Journal on the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed a 142,000 gain in private payroll employment in August, down from 212,000 in July and 267,000 in June. MarketWatch tracks all the reactions, and overreactions—“Disaster!”—here. Was the slowdown in job growth really that bad? Cooler heads point out that seasonal factors make August a fluky month for jobs data, with a tendency for the initial estimate to come in low and be revised up later. AIER suggests not to get worked up over month-to-month swings in the data. We are tracking other business cycle indicators, such as jobless claims and measures of business confidence, that point to continued strengthening of the labor market and the economy overall.
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