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Labor Report

Governor Wolf Visits 2nd Senate District to Open New Workforce Development Center

Senator Tartaglione joined Governor Tom Wolf, legislative colleagues, and workforce development advocates for a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the new Toben Education and Job Center in the 2nd Senate District.

The center offers high school equivalency exam preparation, English as a second language instruction, Harcum College courses, and career development services through PhillyWorks, which is part of the PA CareerLink network.

“In today’s macro economy, employment opportunities are plenty,” Senator Tartaglione said. “Yet many Pennsylvanians find themselves unemployed or underemployed due to local economic conditions or business closings. I am thrilled that the Toben Center will offer the people of the Greater Northeast opportunities to enhance their education and skills, improve their marketability, and connect with potential employers. The Center will help folks advance their careers and create a better life for their families.”

The Center is at 7222 Castor Ave. along a bustling commercial corridor serving a residential community that has grown more than 8% in the last decade.

“Workforce development is one of my highest priorities because Pennsylvanians can’t get good jobs without the training they need, and businesses can’t succeed without trained workers,” Governor Wolf said. The Toben Center will serve as a ladder up for residents of Northeast Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and it will strengthen the business community by creating a stronger pool of educated, skilled workers.”

One of the tenants of the Center, PhillyWorks, will provide job seekers with resume and job search help, as well as access to employment opportunities in the city and across the Commonwealth.

“As the state’s largest workforce board, we strive to stay aligned with the Governor’s priorities,” said H. Patrick Clancy, president and CEO of PhillyWorks. “The location of the Toben Center directly addresses transportation access and gaps in workforce training. The services provided in the Center ensure that education and workforce resources are accessible at the same time, in the same space, lessening the burden on career seekers.”

Coronavirus May Threaten Service Industry, Gig Economy Workers Disproportionately

Many states and jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, have been rolling out warnings, informational briefings, and risk reduction recommendations regarding Coronavirus in recent days as the illness has reportedly begun to expand its impact in the U.S.

Much of the advice being circulated should be relatively simple for most Americans to adopt: cover your face when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands frequently, clean the surfaces surrounding you frequently.

Yet, workers in many low-wage professions and those who labor in the gig economy are at a distinct disadvantage as they try to shield themselves from a potentially fatal infection. They must work closely with the public and cannot choose to stay at home if they feel sick.

“Service industry workers, like those in restaurants, retail, child care and the gig economy, are much less likely to have paid sick days, the ability to work remotely or employer-provided health insurance,” the New York Times wrote.

“The disparity could make the new coronavirus, which causes a respiratory illness known as Covid-19, harder to contain in the United States than in other rich countries that have universal benefits like health care and sick leave, experts say. … It could also mean that low-income workers are hit harder by the virus.”

In the U.S., about 27.5 million people lack any form of health insurance, the Times reported, which makes them less likely to seek medical care when they become ill or have access to illness prevention services.

In a sense, public awareness of the virus may worsen the risks to certain workers, like independent food delivery drivers. In China, according to the online business publication Quartz, app-based orders for prepared food have “skyrocketed” as consumers choose to stay at home, rather than risk public exposure.

“National laws governing whether gig economy workers are contractors or employees are a patchwork. And where legal bodies attempt to give them more rights, companies such as Uber and DoorDash have pushed back, hard,” Quartz wrote.

In New York State, particularly in New York City, gig workers have already been gaining traction in their fight for minimum pay laws and paid time off. City & State New York suggested that now may be an opportune time for lawmakers “to prioritize granting gig workers more labor rights like paid sick leave.”

PA’s Poverty Rate, Stagnant Minimum Wage Keep State Behind Neighbors in Wealth Rankings

One may expect Pennsylvania, as the fifth-largest state by population, to rank among the nation’s wealthiest states based on the economic potential of its 12.8 million residents.

Yet, a new study by the small business-focused website reports that the Commonwealth trails most of its Northeast Region neighbors in wealth as measured by several factors including real personal income, consumption expenditures, and poverty rates.

Pennsylvania ranks 21st in the nation and 10th among the 12 states included by the researchers in the Northeast Region. Only Maine (30th nationally) and West Virginia (45th) are less wealthy. The Northeast is the richest region in the nation with Connecticut (first), Massachusetts (second), New York (third), New Jersey (fifth), and Maryland (seventh) among the top 10. Delaware is 13th.

“The results are telling, with regional clusters appearing at the top, middle, and bottom of the ranking,” the website reported. “However, there are a few surprises.”

Poverty rate is the single factor that is most likely to indicate where a state may land in the ranking.

“Of the 10 states with the highest poverty rates, eight are among the top 10 poorest states, while the remaining two are among the top 15 poorest,” the website reported.

That leaves Pennsylvania, with its 12.5% poverty rate, trailing most of its neighbors and much of the U.S. The national rate is about 11.8%.

“Pennsylvanians are not working less or working less productively than their Northeast neighbors, but they are paid less for their labor,” the editorial board of The Times-Tribune of Scranton wrote. “That’s partially due to the state Legislature’s obstinate and ridiculous refusal to increase the minimum wage, which not only would increase income at the bottom of the scale but increase pressure for higher wages further up the ladder. Every Northeast state has increased its minimum wage significantly over the past five years, as Pennsylvania’s has remained mired at the poverty level $7.25 an hour.”

Another Federal Appeals Court Rejects Retroactive Fair-Share Fees Claim

The Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals became the third federal appellate court to reject efforts by public sector workers to recover union “fair share” fees retroactively based on the Supreme Court’s 2018 precedent-setting Janus vs. AFSCME decision.

According to The National Law Review, the Sixth Circuit found that “the so-called ‘good faith’ defense bars (18 U.S. Code Section 1983) claims that seek to recover ‘fair-share’ fees collected under valid state law.”

Previously, the Seventh Circuit in Chicago and Ninth Circuit in San Francisco each rejected similar claims on the same grounds. Numerous district courts have rejected similar cases at the trial level.

In the Ohio case, a school teacher named Sarah Lee filed suit against the Avon Lake Education Association seeking repayment for the fees she had paid to the union. Though she had opted out of union membership, she continued to benefit from the union’s representation of her bargaining unit. In its defense, the union argued that its fee collections were in keeping with applicable state law of the time.

The appeals court ruled unanimously in favor of the ALEA.

“Even assuming Janus applies retroactively, the union, as a private actor, could assert the affirmative defense that it acted in good faith: it followed Ohio law in effect at the time, which was consistent with prevailing Supreme Court precedent specifically allowing for fair-share fees,” the court found.

February 2020 National Jobs Update

The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate fell to 3.5% in February 2020, down 0.1% from January, matching the 50 year low seen in 2019. Over the month, unemployment rolls decreased by 105,000 individuals, lowering total unemployment to slightly below 5.8 million. National unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 5,787,000
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   105,000
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   394,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   1,731,000
  • Rate Change Over Month –   DOWN   0.1%
  • Rate Change Over Year –   DOWN   0.3%
  • 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. In February 2020, the national labor force fell by 60,000 individuals, a combination of total employment* rising by 45,000 individuals and total unemployment down by 105,000 individuals as noted above, lowering its total to 164.5 million.
Since President Trump took office, the national labor force has grown by 4.899 million individuals (unemployment -1.731 million & employment +6.630 million), continuing progress made over President Obama’s second term when the national labor force grew by 3.884 million individuals (unemployment -4.953 million & employment +8.837 million). National labor force statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Labor Force – 164,546,000
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   60,000
  • Change Over Year -  UP   1,499,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   4,899,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   3,884,000

Non-farm* hiring was strong again in February 2020, as jobs grew by 273,000 for a second consecutive month, beating out economists’ projections of 165,000 and pushing total non-farm employment to a new record high of 152.5 million. While job growth has been robust in recent months, average monthly non-farm job gains through President Trump’s term thus far (187,000) remain below average monthly growth seen over President Obama’s second term (216,000). National non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Non-Farm Employment – 152,544,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   273,000
  • Change Over Year –   UP   2,409,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –   UP   6,917,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   UP   10,364,000

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