Subscribe to E-Update here.  
Labor Report

Philly Delays Enforcement of Law to Make Work Schedules More Predictable

Just days before Christmas 2018, Philadelphia adopted a “Fair Workweek” law requiring businesses – including those in the retail, fast-food, and hospitality industries – to make work schedules more predictable for their employees.

But there was a caveat. The law wouldn’t take effect for more than a year. Now, just one month before workers were due to get their long-awaited relief, the city has delayed its enforcement of the law. According to the Inquirer, the Mayor’s Office of Labor has pushed back the law’s implementation “to ensure businesses have time to comply.”

Businesses were heavily involved in the initial debate over the proposal, which was adopted by City Council, 14-3, despite lobbying efforts by industry groups. After the mayor signed the bill into law, the implementation process included meetings with stakeholder groups last spring and summer, followed by a public comment period. Later, an influential business group requested and was granted a public hearing, which was held last month, the newspaper reported.

Under the new schedule, portions of the law won’t be enforced before July 1.

The law requires businesses to provide employees with at least two weeks’ notice of their upcoming schedules or they businesses will be required to pay employees extra for unscheduled hours they work. They extra wages are known as “predictability pay.” Also, at the time a worker is hired, the employer must provide a “good-faith estimate” of the employee’s likely work schedule.

Potential Reuse of Idled Refinery Gets Zoning Approval

The company that shut down the largest oil refinery on the East Coast earlier this year following a major explosion and fire has received approval to subdivide a portion of the 1,300-acre tract for potential reuse as a renewable energy plant that produces methane gas.

Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved a 23-acre carve-out for the proposed renewable gas conversion as part of a larger subdivision of the Philadelphia Energy Soluctions facility, according to the Inquirer. PES, which filed for bankruptcy soon after the June 21 disaster, is in the process of a court-supervised sale of the entire refinery complex.

At least 15 potential buyers expressed interest in the property, or portions of it, leading up a November 22 deadline for proposals. Final confidential bids must be filed with the bankruptcy court by January 10. In case there is competition among the bidders, an auction has been scheduled for January 17.

Designs submitted by PES to the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection along with the subdivision request “indicate they were made at the behest of RNG Energy Solutions,” the newspaper reported. Prior to the disaster, RNG and PES initiated a joint venture to build a facility on an unused portion of the PES land that would convert food waste into methane gas.

Two months after the explosion and fire, RNG officials announced that the company would attempt to buy all 1,300 acres to develop a renewable diesel fuel plant and solar energy cells, as well as the methane gas plant. RNG did not disclose employment projections.

Economists: Poorer Americans Now Paying Higher Taxes Than the Ultra Rich

Last year, for the first time in recorded American history, the nation’s richest families paid a lower effective tax rate than the working class, according to new research published by two University of California-Berkeley economists and reported by the Washington Post.

The researchers found that the nation’s richest 400 families paid a 23 percent effective tax rate in 2018 compared to the 24.2 percent paid by families that earned in the bottom half of the income scale. Four decades ago, the richest families were taxed at 47 percent. In 1960, their tax rate was 56 percent. Meanwhile, the effective tax rate paid by the bottom half of American earners has changed little over time.

According to the Post, the analysis encompasses federal income taxes, state and local taxes, corporate taxes, and other government fees such as business and motor vehicle licenses.

The study’s authors noted that the top 400 families have more wealth than the bottom 60 percent of U.S. households, while the top one-tenth of one percent (that’s one in every thousand families) own as much as the bottom 80 percent.

“Congress has repeatedly slashed top income tax rates and cut taxes on capital gains and estates,” the Post wrote, citing the report. “Lawmakers have also failed to provide adequate funding for IRS enforcement efforts and allowed multinational companies to shelter their profits in low-tax nations.”

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 – often promoted as a tax break for the middle class – lowered the top income tax bracket and “slashed” the corporate tax rate. By 2018, the average effective tax rate paid by the top one-tenth of one percent of families dropped by 2.5%.

“The benefits promised by the bill’s supporters – higher rates of growth and business investment and a shrinking deficit – have largely failed to materialize,” the Post reported.

The Congressional Budget Office has reported that the federal government generated a $133 billion deficit in October 2019, a 33% increase over the October 2018 deficit. The CBO has predicted that the cumulative end-of-year deficit for fiscal year 2020 will exceed $1 trillion. The national debt now exceeds $23 trillion.

Steel Tariffs Hurting Little Guys and Big Guys Too

Despite the White House’s imposition of a 25% tariff on steel imports last year, the domestic industry has encountered plummeting prices and earnings resulting in large-scale layoffs.

In Farrell, Pennsylvania, Russian-owned NLMK has resorted to weekly layoffs of up to 100 of its 430 unionized workers, as well as the permanent elimination of 35 salaried jobs, according to the Sharon Herald.

In October, Fortune reported that the price of steel had dropped to $502 per metric ton, down from a high of $835 in 2018, causing stock prices to nose dive. U.S. Steel shares lost 64.4% of their value year-over-year.

Last month, Fortune reported further that the industry has added just 1,800 jobs since February 2018, the month before the steel tariffs took effect, while steelmakers still employ 10,000 fewer people than they did in 2014.

“What’s caused steel prices to fall are factors ranging from lower demand – thanks to a weaker global economy – to the industry’s own rush to boost production after Trump’s tariffs took effect,” the magazine wrote.

This week, the Inquirer reported that the tariffs have also hurt some domestic producers “due to higher costs for the rough foreign steel they shape into higher-value finished products.” NLMK cited its higher import costs in announcing its latest series of layoffs.

Philadelphia’s city-owned ports on the Delaware River have seen a decline in the tonnage of imported steel, as well as “everything from Irish whiskey to Spanish clementine (oranges)” due to the administration’s trade wars.


November 2019 National Jobs Update

The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate fell to 3.5% in November 2019, down 0.1% from October 2019, back to the 2019 low of 3.5% in September, the lowest rate since December 1969. Over the month, unemployment rolls decreased by 44,000 individuals, lowering total unemployment to 5.811 million. National unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 5,811,000

  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   44,000

  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   207,000

  • Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1,754,000

  • Rate Change Over Month –   DOWN   0.1%

  • Rate Change Over Year –   DOWN   0.2%

  • Rate Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1.2%

  • Rate Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   DOWN   3.3%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, fell 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. Marking a seventh consecutive monthly increase, the national labor force grew slightly by 40,000 individuals from October to November 2019, a combination of total employment* rising by 83,000 individuals and total unemployment down by 44,000 individuals as noted above, pushing its total to a new record high of 164.4 million.
Since President Trump took office, the national labor force has grown by 4.711 million individuals (unemployment -1.754 million & employment +6.465 million), continuing progress made over President Obama’s second term when the national labor force grew by 3.930 million individuals (unemployment -4.906 million & employment +8.836 million). National labor force statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Labor Force – 164,404,000

  • Change Over Month –   UP   40,000

  • Change Over Year -   UP   1,583,000

  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   4,711,000

  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   3,930,000

Non-farm* job growth accelerated in November 2019, growing by a robust 266,000 over the month, well above economist projections. Despite the increase, year-to-date and year-over-year percentage non-farm job growth stand at their lowest levels since 2010. Additionally, average monthly non-farm job gains through President Trump’s term thus far (193,000) remain below average monthly growth seen over President Obama’s second term (217,000). National non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Non-Farm Employment – 152,252,000

  • Change Over Month –   UP   266,000

  • Change Over Year –   UP   2,204,000

  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   6,557,000

  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   10,412,000

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