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Labor Report

Energy Coordinating Agency Opens Newly Expanded HVAC Lab

Senator Tartaglione joined Governor Wolf, and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to celebrate the opening of the newly expanded HVAC Pathways Vocational Lab at the Energy Coordinating Agency’s Knight Green Jobs Training Center in the 2nd Senate District on April 25.

Made possible through a partnership between ECA and Johnson Controls Inc., the vocational lab prepares young people for rewarding careers in the new clean energy economy. The lab features working HVAC units designed for industrial and residential use, providing trainees with hands-on experience as well as multi-media classroom-style instruction. Many of the young people served by the facility come from economically challenged backgrounds, while others are reentering their communities as productive members of society following periods of incarceration.

“This is a great day for ECA, the environment, this neighborhood, and working people throughout the region,” Senator Tartaglione said. “Trainees will learn advanced technical skills and earn valuable professional credentials that they will carry with them wherever they go.”

ECA Executive Director Steve Luxton said that national economic forecasts predict a shortage of HVACR technicians that will reach 115,070 by 2022. Pennsylvania ranks 11th nationally with more than 7,000 HVACR job postings annually with the openings lasting 38 days on average.

“They are great jobs,” Senator Tartaglione said. “They are jobs that support families and improve lives.”

2017 Tax Law Allows Many of Nation’s Largest Companies to Pay Zero

Sixty of the nation’s largest publicly-held corporations avoided paying a combined $16.4 billion in federal taxes on $79 billion in pretax income, while enjoying rebates totaling $4.3 billion for 2018 as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by the Republican-led Congress and signed into law by President Trump in late 2017. That’s the same law that lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

NBC News reported on a new study released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that used the companies’ filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to obtain all data. The number of zero-tax-paying companies more than doubled from prior years studied by ITEP before the new tax law went into effect.

IBM earned $500 million in U.S. income and received a tax rebate of $342 million. Amazon reported $11 billion of U.S. income and collected a rebate of $129 million. Netflix paid no federal income tax on $856 million of U.S. income. Molson Coors made $1.3 billion of U.S. income and collected a $22.9 million rebate. General Motors reported a “negative tax rate” on $4.3 billion of total income, the new study found.

“Companies profiled in this report appear to be using a diverse array of legal tax breaks to zero out their federal income taxes,” ITEP stated.

Corporate tax avoidance strategies included accelerated depreciation, stock options, fossil fuel tax subsidies, alternative energy tax subsidies, and various other tax credits. In many cases, companies used “vague financial disclosures” to obscure their strategies.

Uber, Lyft Drivers Call for May 8 Strike Over Low Pay and Other Complaints

Rideshare drivers in Los Angeles have called for a nationwide strike on May 8 to protest a recent pay rate reduction by Uber and to demand higher wages from both Uber and Lyft.

The 24-hour work stoppage is being organized by the Los Angeles-based Rideshare Drivers United, which claims about 4,200 members. Drivers in San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., plan to join the protest, according to a report published by the Univision-owned Gizmodo website.

In a post on its Facebook page, Rideshare Drivers United stated: “Drivers’ pay is at the center of this fight. A recent Uber mileage cut to 60 cents per mile – only two cents over the IRS reimbursement rate for business miles – plus (with) gas prices surging, drivers are finding themselves making far below minimum wage after expenses and are having to work more than 60 hours (per) week just to pay basic necessities, all while Uber and Lyft’s IPOs are bringing billions and billions of investors’ dollars into the companies.”

Lyft launched its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange last month. Uber has announced plans to go public next month.

Politico reported that Rideshare Drivers United has demanded that the companies guarantee at minimum pay rate of $28 before expenses as they do in New York City in accordance with a local ordinance. The drivers’ organization on its website calls for a 10 percent cap on company commissions, for the companies to pay drivers while en route to pick up passengers, and that the companies pay drivers a gas surcharge that fluctuates with the price of fuel.

The drivers also want operational changes. They want the companies (via their dispatch software) to inform the drivers of trip destinations and estimated fares before trips begin. (Under the current system, drivers must accept a trip request without knowing the destination or fare.) The drivers want the companies to cap the number of vehicles in service in geographic areas, and they want the companies to recognize the organization as a representative of drivers for purposes of negotiation.

Senior Citizen Workforce Growing Amid Income Uncertainties

Dwindling income is causing a growing number of the nation’s elderly to delay retirement, or return to the workforce after retiring, according to Bloomberg, which cited a new report by money manager United Income.

“For the first time in 57 years, the participation rate in the labor force of retirement-age workers has cracked the 20 percent mark,” the news organization stated. “As of February, the ranks of people age 65 or older who are working or seeking paid work doubled from a low of 10 percent back in early 1985. The biggest spike in employment has gone to college-educated older workers; the share of all employees age 65 or older with at least an undergraduate degree is now 53 percent, up from 25 percent in 1985.”

Concerns about Social Security, inadequate retirement savings plans, and high healthcare costs are major financial challenges facing senior citizens. Unfortunately, many seniors who are most in need of additional income aren’t the ones finding lucrative jobs.

“These are the more educated, wealthier individuals in better health who are continuing to work, but it’s probably their less-educated, working-class counterparts who need to work the most,” said Elizabeth Kelly, a senior vice president with UI and former White House official under President Obama.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects aging baby boomers to be the fastest-growing sector of the labor force in the next several years.

March 2019 PA Jobs Update

Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 3.9% in March 2019, down 0.1% from February 2019, marking its lowest point on record. Over the month, unemployment rolls decreased by nearly 5,500 individuals, with total unemployment falling to 255,222. Over Governor Wolf’s first term (Jan. 2015 – Jan. 2019), the state’s unemployment rate fell by 1.3% and is down 1.5% over both terms thus far. State unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 255,222
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   5,496
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   27,615
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   DOWN   78,565
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   DOWN   89,642
  • Rate Change Over Month –   DOWN   0.1%
  • Rate Change Over Year –   DOWN   0.5%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   DOWN   1.3%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   DOWN   1.5%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, fell over the prior month (rate = unemployment / labor force). The labor force is the number of employed individuals combined with the number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Labor force growth can be a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. Marking a third consecutive monthly increase, PA’s labor force grew by 4,747 individuals in March 2019, a combination of total employment* rising by 10,243 and unemployment down by 5,496 as noted above. Over Governor Wolf’s first term, the state’s labor force grew by 58,755 (employment +137,320/ unemployment -78,565) and is up by 72,092 (employment +161,734/ unemployment -89,642) over both terms thus far. State labor force statistics for the month are as follows: 

  • Total Labor Force – 6,474,080
  • Change Over Month –   UP    4,747
  • Change Over Year –   UP    72,027
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –    UP   58,755
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP   72,092

PA non-farm* job rolls rose by 4,000 in March 2019, marking a fourth consecutive month of growth and pushing total non-farm employment to a new record of 6,044,500. Year-over-year, a total of 50,900 new non-farm jobs were added from March 2018 to March 2019. Over Governor Wolf’s first term, a total of 223,000 new non-farm jobs were added, roughly 71,000 more than were added over the four-year term of the prior Corbett Administration. The addition of 223,000 non-farm jobs over Governor Wolf’s first term ranked the commonwealth 35th out of 50 states for new percentage job growth, an improvement from it’s ranking of 49th in the same survey over Governor Corbett’s term. Over both of Governor Wolf’s terms, the commonwealth has added 229,500 non-farm jobs thus far. State non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Employment – 6,044,500
  • Change Over Month –   UP   4,000
  • Change Over Year –   UP   50,900
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   UP   223,000
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP    229,500

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