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Labor Report


New House Labor Committee May Bring Fight for $15 to the Forefront

The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce is in store for many changes in the wake of Tuesday’s general election that shifted the balance of power in the legislative chamber. Not the least of which may be a change in the   standing committee’s official name.

Historically, the panel was known as the Committee on Education and Labor. After Republicans took control of the House in 1995, they dropped the word “Labor” from the name and ultimately adopted their preferred terminology, “the Workforce.” The new name lasted until Democrats regained the majority in 2007 and reinstituted the former name. Four years later, Republicans won back the House and restored “Workforce.”

More substantive than the name will be the new leadership’s agenda. The Wall Street Journal reports that Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the first African-American to serve in his state’s House delegation in the post-Civil War era, is positioned to become committee chairman.

Scott, 71, has “expressed interest in several hot-button labor issues, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and pushing mandatory paid family leave,” the Journal reported. Additionally, legislation pending in the committee proposes to “increase labor-union protections, after a Supreme Court decision in June gutted a core pillar of public-sector union strength,” the newspaper added.

On the education front, Scott opposed the appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education and is likely to advocate for college affordability and stronger regulations on for-profit colleges, contrary to the secretary’s deregulation agenda.

Sears Holdings to Close Four More PA Stores Amid Bankruptcy Downsizing

Four Sears Holdings Corporation retail locations across Pennsylvania and 40 around the country will close next February as part of the company’s ongoing bankruptcy reorganization, the company said on Nov. 8.

The new round of Kmart and Sears store closings follows the company’s bankruptcy filing in October, when it announced it would close 142 of its lowest-performing stores by the end of 2018. Those store closings were in addition to the 46 that the company had announced in August.

As the time of the bankruptcy, the company reported it had about 70,000 employees, compared to the 89,000 Forbes reported in January 2018 and the estimated 178,000 the company had in January 2016, according to a federal filing.

The four Pennsylvania locations include 7101 Roosevelt Blvd., Philadelphia; 1901 Lincoln Hwy., North Versailles, Allegheny County; 1665 State Hill Road, Wyomissing, Berks County; and 344 Stroud Mall, Stroudsburg, Monroe County. Liquidation sales at those stores will begin next week.

Sears Holdings was formed in 2005 when Kmart Holding Corp. acquired Sears, Roebuck and Co. Kmart had emerged from its own bankruptcy reorganization in 2003.

As of October, the company had about 700 stores in operation, down from about 2,000 locations five years ago.

New Tax Law Expected to Leave Millions of Workers On the Hook

If your take-home pay grew a bit last January when the new federal tax law took effect, you may be in for an unwelcome surprise come next tax filing season.

The Government Accountability Office – which is the is the federal government’s principal auditing agency – believes that millions of workers have not been withholding enough money each pay cycle to cover their income taxes for the year, according to the Post-Gazette.

An Allegheny County accountant told the newspaper that the GAO figures an additional three percent of taxpayers will owe the IRS more than their withholding. Recognizing this looming issue, Congress has asked the GAO to review the withholding table included in the new tax law.

“Our concern is that people are going to owe taxes in April and won’t be aware, or their refund may be lower than expected,” said Maxine Riddle, an accountant at McClintock & Associates in Bridgeville.

Certain types of filers are at greater risk, including those in multiple-income households, individuals with multiple jobs, those who itemize their deductions and those with dependents who don’t qualify for the child tax credit (age 17 and older).

October 2018 National Jobs Update

The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate experienced no change from September to October 2018, remaining at 3.7%. Over the month, unemployment rolls increased by 111,000 individuals, with total unemployment rising to just over 6 million. Unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 6,075,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   111,000
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   449,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1,567,000
  • Rate Change Over Month – no change
  • Rate Change Over Year –   DOWN   0.4%
  • Rate Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1.1%
  • Rate Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   DOWN   3.2%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, remained unchanged over the month (rate = unemployment / labor force). The labor force is the total number of employed individuals combined with the total number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Growth in the labor force can be a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. In October 2018, the national labor force grew by 711,000 individuals, a combination of total employment* rising by 600,000 individuals and total unemployment up by 111,000 individuals as noted above.

Since President Trump took office, the national labor force has grown by 2.919 million individuals (unemployment -1.567 million & employment +4.486 million). While this growth is encouraging, continued improvement will be needed to match labor force growth seen over President Obama’s second term (3.955 million: unemployment -4.829 million & employment +8.784 million).

  • Total Labor Force – 162,637,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   711,000
  • Change Over Year   UP  -  2,266,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   2,919,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   3,955,000

Non-farm* jobs grew by 250,000 in October 2018, rebounding from monthly growth of 118,000 in September 2018. Thus far, average monthly non-farm job growth under President Trump stands at 193,000, 24,000 below average monthly growth of 217,000 seen over President Obama’s second term. Employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Employment – 149,750,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   250,000
  • Change Over Year –   UP   2,516,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   4,054,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   10,414,000

*Total employment for labor force provided by U.S. Census Household survey. The separate BLS Establishment survey measures non-farm jobs only.