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The Impact of Low Unemployment Rates on Disadvantaged Groups

October 12, 2017

This paper compares employment rates by gender, race and ethnicity, and educational attainment from 2013 to 2015 in the 20 metro areas with the lowest unemployment rates and the 20 metro areas with the highest unemployment rates to get some measure of the disproportionate gains to disadvantaged groups from low unemployment.The analysis in this paper strongly supports the view that relatively disadvantaged groups have been the major beneficiaries of recent declines in unemployment. In all cases, the gains for whites — and especially college-educated whites — were limited. This suggests that if the unemployment rate is allowed to fall further, there can be large additional benefits in employment, hours, and wages for the most disadvantaged groups in the labor force.

The Affordable Care Act and the Change in Voluntary Part-time Employment by States

March 6, 2017

A major goal of the ACA was to give workers the ability to obtain insurance outside of their employment, so that they would not be tied to a job that doesn't meet their needs or fully utilize their skills due of their need for health insurance. The jump in voluntary part-time employment since the exchanges went into operation is an indication that the ACA has had this effect. This paper gives the breakdown of this increase by state. Presumably, if the ACA were repealed without some comparable or better system of insurance put in its place, these numbers should give an indication of how many people would again be forced to seek out full-time employment to get employer-provided health insurance, even though part-time work better fits their needs.

Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work

March 1, 2017

More than 30 companies say they are just a few years away from introducing autonomous vehicles to the mass market. While it is unknown what the ultimate impact of autonomous vehicles will have on jobs, there is a possibility that there could be a relatively rapid transition. This is likely to cause significant pain in a number of communities, as well as exacerbate the losses of "good jobs," a category that includes some driving jobs. It would be prudent to strengthen our safety net and labor market to absorb a shock from autonomous-vehicle technology, as well as ensure that autonomous-vehicle technology is safe and reliable. This will be a challenge, given the recent change in the party controlling the executive branch, and its new secretary of transportation. Strengthening the unemployment insurance system, improving apprenticeship programs, making higher education more affordable, and committing to full employment can not only minimize the harm to displaced workers, but can provide them with opportunities that lead to fulfilling and economically sustaining jobs. This is good policy whether or not autonomous vehicles are around the corner.

Who Pays if We Raise the Social Security Payroll Tax Cap?

February 1, 2017

Most Americans know that their earnings are subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Not as many are aware that the amount of earnings subject to the tax, while subject to change, is capped at the same level for everyone, regardless of total earnings. This year, the maximum wage earnings subject to the payroll tax is $127,200. The cap on the Social Security payroll tax means that those with the highest earnings pay a lower rate.Using Census Bureau data from the latest American Community Survey (ACS), this issue brief updates previous CEPR research to determine how many people would be affected if the payroll tax cap were raised or eliminated.

Hispanic Workers in the United States

November 1, 2016

There are about 24 million Hispanic workers in the United States. They come from a variety of backgrounds and face unique challenges in the U.S. labor market. Focusing on trends in the overall Hispanic community can conceal notable differences among Hispanics of different ethnic subgroups.This paper presents data on the Hispanic workforce, highlighting the similarities and differences among Hispanics of different ethnic subgroups. The first section focuses on the diversity of the Hispanic workforce, examining differences based on gender, educational attainment, and citizenship. The second section provides data on several challenges that Hispanics currently face in the labor market, including unemployment, low wages, poverty, language barriers, and low access to health and retirement benefits. The last section shows the impact that union representation has in these areas.

Black Workers, Unions, and Inequality

August 29, 2016

This study uses the most recent Census Bureau data available to examine the trends in unionization for Black workers, focusing on unionization rates as well as the demographic composition of the Black union workforce. This paper also presents data on the impact of unionization on the wages and benefits of Black workers and how these benefits work to reduce racial wage inequality.Unionization rates have been in decline across the board for decades. Despite this fact, Black workers are still more likely than workers of any other race or ethnicity to be unionized. In 2015, 14.2 percent of Black workers and 12.3 percent of the entire workforce were represented by unions, down from 31.7 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively, in 1983. This large decline in unionization has occurred alongside, and contributed to, an increase in overall wage inequality, as well as the widening Black-white wage gap.

The Price We Pay: Economic Costs of Barriers to Employment for Former Prisoners and People Convicted of Felonies

June 16, 2016

Despite modest declines in recent years, the large and decades-long blossoming of the prison population ensure that it will take many years before the United States sees a corresponding decrease in the number of former prisoners. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), this report estimates that there were between 14 and 15.8 million working-age people with felony convictions in 2014, of whom between 6.1 and 6.9 million were former prisoners.

Still Working Hard: An Update on the Share of Older Workers in Physically Demanding Jobs

March 24, 2016

A recurring theme in debates over Social Security policy is that workers should be encouraged to work later into their lives by raising the age at which they can get full benefits. Implicit in this argument is that most workers are in a situation where they would be able to work to an older age; however, many older workers stop working because they can no longer meet the physical demands of their job.In 2010, CEPR did an analysis that examined the percentage of older workers (ages 58 and over) who either worked in physically demanding jobs or in difficult work conditions. This paper is an update of that earlier study and is based on data from 2014.Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and Occupational Information Network (O*NET) it finds that in 2014, 8.0 million workers ages 58 and older (34.5 percent) had physically demanding jobs, while 5.1 million workers ages 58 and older (22.1 percent) had jobs with difficult working conditions. About 10.2 million workers ages 58 and older (43.8 percent) were employed either in physically demanding jobs or jobs with difficult working conditions. The workers who were most likely to be in these jobs were Latinos, the least educated (less than a high school diploma), immigrants, and the lowest wage earners.Physically demanding jobs include general physical activities, handling and moving objects, spending significant time standing, walking or running, making repetitive motions, or having any highly physically demanding work. Highly physically demanding jobs require dynamic, explosive, static, or trunk strength, bending or twisting of the body, stamina, maintaining balance, or kneeling or crouching. Difficult working conditions include working in a cramped workspace, labor outdoors, or exposure to abnormal temperatures, contaminants, hazardous equipment, whole body vibration, or distracting or uncomfortable noise.

Young Black America Part Four: The Wrong Way to Close the Gender Wage Gap

August 18, 2015

Young blacks in America have had significant improvements in educational attainment since the early 1980s. They are completing high school and college at higher rates than in the past, which has helped to mitigate some of the negative employment effects of past recessions.However, wages for young blacks have declined since the late 1970s, with rates for black men in particular decreasing significantly -- even for those with college degrees. The wage data also continue to show that young blacks have been hit harder than whites during the recent recession and incomplete recovery.

Young Black America Part Three: Employment, Unemployment, and the Incomplete Recovery

June 24, 2015

As documented in parts one and two of this series, young blacks are completing high school and college at higher rates than in the past. This third installment and subsequent reports will examine whether these increases in educational attainment have led to better labor market outcomes. The data show that education does make a difference. College-educated young blacks have higher employment rates than less-educated blacks. However, blacks overall still suffer from lower employment rates than whites. This gap in employment rates increased during the recent recession and is still larger than its pre-recession level.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Workers Today

May 28, 2015

This issue brief looks at the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available to provide an overview of the demographics and economic status of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workforce in the United States. A key theme that runs throughout this analysis is that the AAPI workforce is exceptionally diverse, so much so that average statistics obscure many important facts about this population. There are about 8.9 million AAPI workers in the United States. This is about 20 times more than in 1960, when the Decennial census counted less than half a million AAPI workers. Of that total, about 8.5 million are Asian Americans and about 450,000 are Pacific Islanders. At 6.1 percent, AAPIs' share of the U.S. workforce is ten times larger than it was in 1960, when AAPIs comprised only about 0.6 percent of U.S. workers.

Low-wage Workers: Still Older, Smarter, and Underpaid

May 20, 2015

Most economists would agree that, on average, workers who are older and better educated should earn higher wages than younger workers with less education. This is because older workers usually have more work experience and on-the-job training, leading to more skills. Similarly, each additional year of education leads to an increase in workers' skills. These increases in skills, whether through education or work experience, should in theory be rewarded in the labor market with higher wages. However, this has not been the case for low-wage workers. The minimum wage reached its peak value in 1968, when it was equal to $9.54 in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars. Since then, the value of the minimum wage has continued to erode, and currently sits at $7.25. This has happened despite the fact that low-wage workers today are older and better educated than low-wage workers of the past.