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.
The New York Times has a good cautionary story today. It's about how people looking at low interest rates of conventional investments have been drawn to risky propositions to improve their retirement outlook. Dangerous business.
An Arkansas regulatory is quoted. Unsophisticated investors (and that's most of us) are being preyed on here, too.
...The victims are among the millions of Americans whose mutual funds and stock portfolios plummeted in the wake of the financial crisis, and who started searching for ways to make better returns than those being offered by bank deposits and government bonds with minuscule interest rates.
Tens of thousands of them put money into speculative bets promoted by aggressive financial advisers. The investments include private loans to young companies like television production firms and shares in bundles of commercial real estate properties.
Those alternative investments have now had time to go sour in big numbers, state and federal securities regulators say, and are making up a majority of complaints and prosecutions.
...There are few good statistics on the extent of the problem nationally. But cases are mounting in the offices of regulators like A. Heath Abshure, the securities commissioner in Arkansas, where a majority of the 66 open securities cases involve complex investments sold to less sophisticated investors looking for a steady return.
This story, again, is an illustration of the folly of the beloved Ignorance Caucus notion that we should wreck Social Security and Medicaid and replace defined benefits with vouchers that give money over to Americans to invest for themselves and insure themselves as they choose.
Ten states began the New Year with increases in their minimum wage rates. According to this article, 19 states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wages above the $7.25 federal rate.
Arkansas, of course, is not one of the states outpacing the federal minimum wage rate. Far from it. It's one of a handful of states that either pay below the federal minimum or — worse in the case of some Dixie brethren — have no minimum wage at all.
Arkansas last raised the state minimum wage in 2006, to $6.25 an hour, now $1 below the federal rate. It covers employees not covered by the federal rate. (Not very well, obviously.) Some employees are even exempt from that lower rate. Arkansas's chamber of commerce lobby (which controls the legislature generally) caved to the last increase in the face of a constitutional amendment drive that would have indexed the state rate to inflation. In retrospect, the forces for a decent wage shouldn't have caved.
A tipster tells me a Democratic legislator plans to introduce legislation this year to make the state minimum $8.25 an hour. I haven't reached him yet to confirm. I'd like to predict that the new Republican majority would be open to legislation that helps low-wage workers, but ....
UPDATE: Rep. Butch Wilkins of Bono confirms he plans to introduce this legislaton. It's simple. He'd increase the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour effective July 1.
As you know there are a lot of people out there that are in need of help. These are people who are working for a living and not asking for a lot of help. The economy seems to be improving and now seems like the right time.
... You may recall in the 09 session I voted against a minimum wage bill sponsored by Rep. Nickels. At that time I thought we were headed into a deep recession and was worried about a loss of jobs that could accompany that bill. I feel much better about the economy at this time.
First-time jobless claims fell 12,000 to 350,000 in the latest week, the lowest level in more than four years, the U.S. government says.
The Arkansas unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent in November, from 7.2 percent the month before, but the size of the labor force still shrunk a bit.
With even the Pope now joining the twitterverse, I am apparently the last person remaining without an account. Need to get on it! U.S. Senator Mark Pryor announced today that he’ll be hosting his first-ever Twitter Town Hall this Thurdsay, December 6 at 1:30 p.m. Tweet your questions to him about the fiscal cliff and make sure to use the hashtag #AskPryor.
The Arkansas unemployment rate in October was 7.2 percent, up from 7.1 percent the month before. The workforce declined by 4,700 jobs.
Nocera also quotes bullyboy Republican Jack Welch as backing off from some of his overheated comments about supposedly corrupt numbers from an independent federal agency insulated from politics.
Here's what's important:
There is rough justice in the way things are playing out. Having spent the last year wrongly blaming the president for high unemployment, Republicans can only stand by helplessly as the unemployment rate goes down at the worst possible moment for them. Fox News scoured the data Friday, looking for signs that the economy wasn’t improving. They found some: high unemployment for African-Americans, for instance, and fewer manufacturing jobs.
But the data were largely overwhelmed by positive signals. In its revised figures for July and August, for instance, the bureau said that more jobs had been created than it originally estimated. People with only high school degrees were finding jobs. The number of people who had been out of work for six months or more was at its lowest point in three years.
Whether the Republicans like it or not, the economy is slowing getting better.
What kind of American would WANT bad economic results? Somebody who puts politics above country?
Now it's Slate with a cautionary tale about the rush by local governments to spend millions of taxpayer money to incubate technology parks, as Little Rock is doing under a plan hatched and controlled by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The article mentions Louisville, hampered in its aim to do tech startups by a shortage of programmers. Uh, yeah, spec buildings don't count for much without somebody who can run the computers. Maybe, the article suggests, the focus on sci/tech is the wrong focus. Why not focus on creating incubation for, say, a national restaurant chain?
Check this excerpt, which is brilliant because it synthesizes precisely what I've been saying for years about the vision lacking in the continuing headlong rush by Little Rock and Arkansas to pass out corporate welfare dollars:
Having a pizzeria in your town is no great achievement, but having the corporate headquarters of a major international brand is. Given the realistic limits to how much high-tech growth your typical city can expect, the smartest move may be to look around at what great small businesses you already have and ask what they need to thrive and grow.
So what exactly do they need? Kauffmann’s analysis of the Inc. data found that such conventional measures as local venture capitalist activity, R&D spending by local universities, taxes, and patents per capita didn’t matter. The level of college graduates with degrees in technical subjects, by contrast, makes a difference, as does the overall ratio of new businesses to old ones. Having good local schools and being the kind of pleasant place to live that might attract skilled workers also turns out to be a generally sound growth strategy. The nonsignificance of taxes is itself an interesting finding, since all else being equal people prefer not to pay taxes. The flipside is that taxes finance public services, which may do more to attract firms and workers than taxes do to deter them.
The moral of the story, in other words, is that becoming a friendly place for successful startups is mostly about the fundamentals. Startups come in all kinds of sectors, and the biggest driver of startup success is a deep local pool of skilled labor. That means being a great place to launch a business and being a nice place to live are deeply related goals. Good schools, solid infrastructure, appealing cultural amenities, and a reasonable balance between taxes and public services mean more than a supercomputer.
Shazam! Good infrastructure. Good schools. A good place to live, with cultural attractions. These things grow communities. Double shazam! Taxes are not much of a factor for industrialists, except that a good tax base generally provides infrastructure, schools and cultural amenities. In Little Rock, though, the same-old, same-old prevails. Pour $28 million into an office building — and destroy a neighborhood while you're at it — and we all will be trickled upon.
WHILE WE'RE AT IT: States just can't quit passing out lucrative corporate welfare to movie makers, despite growing questions about the cost/benefits of the incentives.
Women are now legally free to roam bare-breasted in New York City.
And if their case is based on testimony of Cord Rapert (cousin of Republican Sen…
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