The Arkansas unemployment rate rose to 7.4 percent in July, up from 7.3 the month before.
Republican governors, even Wisconsin's Scott Walker, are warning Republicans in Congress that it would be a bad idea to shut down the federal government as part of an effort to block Obamacare. New York Times reports.
A range of Republican governors, including some who have refused to implement elements of the health initiative in their states, said in interviews that a standoff in Washington before the new fiscal year this fall could backfire on the party if it is seen as being responsible for bringing the government to a halt.
Rep. Cotton? Perhaps he'll offer some thoughts on this when he announces for U.S. Senate tomorrow.
In an interview with the New York Times, President Obama talks about the gap between rich and poor in U.S. (Cry us a river, the billionaire Kochs say. The average impoverished American is a lot better off than somebody in equatorial Africa, so what are they complaining about?)
The lede of the NYT:
In a week when he tried to focus attention on the struggles of the middle class, President Obama said in an interview that he was worried that years of widening income inequality and the lingering effects of the financial crisis had frayed the country’s social fabric and undermined Americans’ belief in opportunity.
The Obama interview is joined by an article about growing unhappiness among low-wage workers and how they are beginning to show discontent. Who can blame an $8-an-hour fast food worker when CEO pay is up 16 percent in the last year?
Many low-paid workers feel their employers have put an invisible ceiling on their wages, with little prospect of ever making more than $10 or $11 an hour, as corporations have focused on keeping wages competitive and maximizing profits to benefit shareholders. The richest Americans have benefited mightily from corporate America’s record profits and the stock market’s repeated highs.
These workers at least would be better off with health care, if Obama can overcome bitter-end defeat-at-any-cost opposition from the Republican Party. He says fear that his plan will succeed is driving the desperate opposition.
By the way: You think the struggling workers — defined as those making from $7.25 to $10 an hour — are just teenagers with part-time jobs and the uneducated? Think again. See the breakdown of those 21 million American workers as illustrated by the Times.
The highlights, from Metroplan's release:
1. Central Arkansas experiences population growth across the region with Faulkner and Saline Counties leading the region with annual population growth estimates of 2% and 1.9%.
2. The manufacturing industry is guiding the U.S. economy out of the recession due to more expensive international freight transport costs, rising labor costs overseas, and cheaper domestic energy.
3. After a small spike in single-family permits in late 2012, single-family permits have slowed down in the first quarter of 2013. Jacksonville saw the most growth with 55 units in construction at Base Meadows within Little Rock Air Force Base in July 2012. Multi-family construction continued upward through 2012 and early 2013 with the greatest issue of permits in North Little Rock with 488 units.
4. Automation continues to replace human employees. The future of work is depending on “hyper-human” tasks such as emotional skills, intuition, imagination, and development of insights and hypotheses.
In case you wondered: population is up .7 percent in Pulaski 2010-13. But that's better, proportionally, than the .6 percent rise reported for the entire decade 2000-2010.
The city growth leader was Bryant, up 12.4 percent in the three-year span. Conway was up more than 6 percent. Little Rock was up 2 percent.
Arkansas unemployment rate stayed at 7.3 percent in June, the state reports.
The monthly state report shows the Arkansas unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent in May, up from an adjusted 7.2 percent the month before. The total number of people working increased slightly.
The Democrat-Gazette today (subscription) focused on Arkansas figures of a trend found in the 2010 Census and much discussed since — the rising poverty in suburbs, previously seen as the land of milk and honey versus ills of urban areas. The number of poor people has been growing much faster in suburbs than cities on a percentage basis.
Of course, the poor are still rising everywhere. Earning power of all but the hedge funders has declined in real dollar terms here and everywhere. Fascinating statistic in a highly recommended Charlie Duff book about Detroit: beginning autoworkers now make less, adjusted for inflation, than workers on Henry Ford's Model Ts.
There's a double whammy in the rise in poor people in the suburbs. Those who commute must pay more to do it. And they move to areas with social service networks not as well developed as in the urban areas.
Irony abounds. Inner cities have greater attraction, particularly with white, younger professionals. See Brooklyn. See the signs of an emerging residential core on Main Street, Little Rock. Suburbs are also becoming more ethnically diverse, though economics is as much of a problem for some as skin color. See Bryant's resistance to more apartment projects with subsidized units.
This from the Huffington Post several years ago highlighted the racial and political aspects of the changing suburban landscape.
It's only somewhat related, but one of the best things I've read this weekend is George Packer's article in the New Yorker about a growing political awareness among the billionaires of Silicon Valley. It's about much more than that. It's about population movement from San Francisco to suburbs — the high-tech boom has driven out poor and ethnic minorities. It's about the corporate lifestyles of the tech companies — WiFi-equipped buses take people who prefer to live in San Francisco to jobs in the suburbs rather than the other way around. It's about the craziness of real estate prices in places where the big companies have succeeded. It's about the culture that created these new fortunes — not government-financed office buildings, but bright people (some of them dropouts) with big ideas and private venture capital who've happily established beachheads in dead warehouse districts, now gentrifying crazily. The article notes, too, that the marvelous inventions of the information age, though they've undeniably made any number of things easier and lots of people wealthy, haven't translated into a broad lift-all-boats prosperity.
Here's Packer's blog post on it. When last I checked, the article wasn't available, but he has a link and it's highly recommended when you can see it.
PS — I know. Little Rock is not San Francisco. But the trends are still apparent here at least to some degree, both in growth of poor in suburbs, a heightened interest in urban living and a revival of some forlorn stretches of real estate, as shown in the photo illustration above. It came from our cover story on downtown Little Rock.
The photo itself is from a block-by-block slideshow of Main Street happenings.
PPS — There's a website devoted to the book and related information on which today's D-G article was based. It includes the chart below.
The Arkansas unemployment rate in April was 7.1 percent, down from 7.2 percent the month before. The number of people working rose. Here's the full report.
Since it's customary to blame President Obama for any and everything unpleasant — see U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (Club for Growth, D.C.) and the Boston bombings — should he also get some credit for positives?
We already knew the federal deficit was declining thanks in part to some economic recovery.
Today, the Dow stock average topped 15,000 this morning, a first.
The jobs report was strong.
I know. George W. Bush's policies are finally paying off. Right, Br'er Cotton?
Do we also thank W. for the billions headed to the Arkansas economy under the recent Obamacare expansion of health coverage for a quarter-million working Arkansans and their children? We certainly owe a thankyou to about half the Republican legislative delegation for that.
PS — This fight isn't nearly over. Read here about how corporate CEOs get fat on taxpayer-provided subsidies even as they fight to push austerity on the government in ways that hurt ordinary citizens.
The state Finance and Administration Department today issued revised forecasts for state tax revenue through the end of fiscal 2014 (June 30, 2014). The trend is upward, with increases in revenue forecast despite tax cuts taking effect in fiscal 2014.
A gain of 4.7 percent in net revenue is expected this year, which ends June 30, well beyond the 2.4 percent increase expected and the reason for a projected $137 million surplus.
In 2014, the net is expected to increase 1.9 percent, enough to cover spending priorities A-C in the state budget and leave an $18.9 million rain day fund and $13.8 million in surplus.
The unemployment rate in Arkansas in March held steady at 7.2 percent, while the workforce dropped slightly. Full report here.
The Arkansas unemployment rate in February held steady at 7.2 percent.
“Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?”
Not doing so well. (The Washington Post)
On Friday, Bloomberg published a couple of internal e-mails from Wal-Mart executives panicking about the company’s worst sales start in seven years — “a total disaster,” as one put it. The execs attributed Wal-Mart’s slump to the payroll tax hike that kicked in on Jan. 1, cutting the median family’s take-home pay by about $1,000 this year.
So if Wal-Mart is struggling, does that mean everyone else should worry? There are two ways to look at this. The first is that this is a terrible omen. Wal-Mart makes up such a huge chunk of the U.S. economy — 2.3 percent of GDP in 2006 — that many analysts look to it as a key bellwether.
On the other hand, maybe Walmart's troubles are about competition, not the economy.
The theory here is that Wal-Mart is an “inferior good” — when times are tough and incomes are falling, consumers switch to shopping at the cheaper retail giant.
The flip side of that: When the economy rebounds, Wal-Mart’s higher-priced rivals do better. As it happens, Target’s sales rose 3.1 percent in January, part of an overall uptick in merchandise and department store shopping. So it’s very possible that Wal-Mart’s woes are just specific to the company — and not part of a broader trend.
The Arkansas minimum wage is $6.25 an hour. A full-time worker can gross $250 a week ($13,000 a year with no vacations) at that rate. That's plenty, according to the likes of Rep. Debra Hobbs, who once said if her cleaning lady would just work a few more hours, she could afford to buy her own health insurance and not look for government to pay for her shiftless self.
(Forget for the purposes of this discussion that Rep. Hobbs can qualify for a taxpayer payment of more than $10,300 a year for solid gold family health insurance coverage.)
A proposal pends to raise the Arkansas minimum wage. Nationally, President Obama has called for raising the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $9. Paul Krugman makes the case for the increase today and answers those who says it's bad for business.
Fairness is a good place to start. Adjusted for inflation, the current minimum wage is lower than it was in the 1960s. But wouldn't it harm business?
... there’s evidence on that question — lots and lots of evidence, because the minimum wage is one of the most studied issues in all of economics. U.S. experience, it turns out, offers many “natural experiments” here, in which one state raises its minimum wage while others do not. And while there are dissenters, as there always are, the great preponderance of the evidence from these natural experiments points to little if any negative effect of minimum wage increases on employment. [Think Arkansas. We've always trailed most of the country in our own minimum wage. Look around you at the prosperity that's produced. Think Right to Work Law, too. Think crummy workers compensation. Etc.]
Why is this true? That’s a subject of continuing research, but one theme in all the explanations is that workers aren’t bushels of wheat or even Manhattan apartments; they’re human beings, and the human relationships involved in hiring and firing are inevitably more complex than markets for mere commodities. And one byproduct of this human complexity seems to be that modest increases in wages for the least-paid don’t necessarily reduce the number of jobs.
What this means, in turn, is that the main effect of a rise in minimum wages is a rise in the incomes of hard-working but low-paid Americans — which is, of course, what we’re trying to accomplish.
Finally, it’s important to understand how the minimum wage interacts with other policies aimed at helping lower-paid workers, in particular the earned-income tax credit, which helps low-income families who help themselves. The tax credit — which has traditionally had bipartisan support, although that may be ending — is also good policy. But it has a well-known defect: Some of its benefits end up flowing not to workers but to employers, in the form of lower wages. And guess what? An increase in the minimum wage helps correct this defect. It turns out that the tax credit and the minimum wage aren’t competing policies, they’re complementary policies that work best in tandem.
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