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Labor Report

PA Unemployment Heave Ho

HelpPA continued its theme of a shrinking unemployment number in January as the rate of joblessness fell to 5.1 percent.

The state Department of Labor & Industry reported that the “civilian labor force increased by 13,000 in January to 6,365,000. Resident employment was up 10,000 while unemployment was up 3,000.”

One big reason for falling Pennsylvania unemployment rates is the Marcellus Shale drilling.

While this is good news for Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to levy a 5 percent extraction tax on Marcellus Shale companies – and it’s good news for people who have the skill and need work – it’s not good news for the natural gas companies who need workers, according to the Texas-based Industrial Info Resources:

“The Marcellus Shale formation, which spans Pennsylvania, West Virginia, eastern Ohio and counties in lower New York, is a mass producer of natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the region surpassed 16 million cubic feet per day of natural gas production in December 2014, up 17% from a year before. Industrial development in the region is being driven by pipeline construction and gas-processing capacity to reach its end consumers.

“In Industrial Info’s analysis for the state of Pennsylvania, industrial labor demand for craft labor is expected to reach 31.1 million hours in 2015, up from 23.3 million hours in 2014. Over the next six years, demand will average 29.5 million hours annually, up from 23.6 million from 2007 to 2014. Such an impact will be beneficial to labor unions in the region,” IIR reported this week.

Nationally, meanwhile, the “push-me-pull-me debate” over labor participation (political attempts to undermine falling unemployment rates) attracted the head of the Republican National Committee and a possible Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham. examined their political claims about labor force participation rates after the duo worked to undermine the consistent drop in the unemployment rate.

While discounting Graham’s assertion the U.S. labor participation rate is at an “all-time low,” agreed with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus that the rate is at its lowest point since 1970-1978. But, it said the underlying reasons for the decline include:

• Aging Baby Boomers,
• Fewer working women, and
• More young people are in college.

What is accurate for anyone to say is that the unsteadiness of the post-recession labor force continues because the normal factors that have encouraged giddiness in the past have changed.

“Many economists believe that the steeply declining labor force participation rate is a reason for concern, as Priebus said, even as the declining unemployment rate seems to paint a rosier picture.

“In a speech on Aug. 22, 2014, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen concluded that ‘the labor market has improved significantly over the past year,’ but said that metrics, including 19 labor market indicators, suggest “that the decline in the unemployment rate over this period somewhat overstates the improvement in overall labor market conditions,” reported.

Union Assault

UnionAs the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee waits to reconsider the proposal that would stop the long-held practice of unions collecting dues from state government and school district employees, the New York Times published a related both-sides-of-the-coin debate on the increase in “right to work” states.

The debate published after Wisconsin became the 25th state to adopt a right to work law, and it features two people who support the trend, two who are opposed, and one who thinks there’s good and bad in this.

Here’s the reminder about where Pennsylvania stands on “paycheck protection.”

Minimum Wage War

MinWageIt was good to be before the House Democratic Policy Committee this week as it looked at proposals to finally increase PA’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as Gov. Wolf and I have championed.

The panel gathered testimony during its hearing Wednesday in Philly.

As you know, my Senate Bill 195 is one of the key proposals that would move us from the poverty-level $7.25 to $10.10.

I’ve long argued that companies opting to pay their frontline employees more ignite a level of competition with their competition. This is the logical and easy response to critics who claim higher minimum wage rates will mean lost jobs.

Case-in-point: Walmart and Dollar General.

Since Walmart has announced plans to pay minimum wage earners more, other companies – like Dollar General – are taking action to pay better attention to their workers.

Dollar General said this week it plans to give its workers more hours “to help improve the quality of a large group of its 11,800 stores.”

The company did not commit to paying a higher minimum wage as CEO Richard Dreiling said all his full-time employees make more than $7.25 an hour, and 12 percent of part-time workers are eligible to earn $9 after five months on the job.

Fair Wage Business of the Week

HeronWhen we think about tools and equipment used in gardening and farming, typically, we don’t consider the gender of the person that will be using them. Most of the time, these items are made to general standards; however, if we consider the differing musculatures of men and women, the argument for a gender-based line of tools becomes more compelling. It was this same reasoning that led the creators of Green Heron Tools, LLC, to begin designing tools customized for the female body.

Located in New Tripoli, PA, Green Heron’s design staff works diligently to ensure women who garden or farm can do so comfortably, safely and effectively by providing them with tools ergonomically designed for their frames. With the assistance of agricultural and mechanical experts, the dream of every woman who grows veggies and flowers has become a possibility. Not only does Green Heron support females in agriculture, but also across all industries. By signing the business petition to increase the minimum wage—an issue which primarily affects women, who make up more than two-thirds of minimum wage workers—Green Heron is striving to empower women everywhere. Thanks to this company, the tools and mindset necessary to achieve a more equal, sustainable world are well within reach.