Tag Archives: minimum wage

Living Wages and the Service Economy

One of the stories that seems to be dominating the news in recent months is the plight of low-paid workers in the service industry.  Most recently, a story about Wal-Mart workers organizing a food drive for other employees so that they could have a Thanksgiving dinner has gotten a great deal of attention.  This comes on the heels of a McDonald’s helpline advising employees on how to apply for food stamps and locate food pantries and other assistance for the poor.  McDonald’s is not alone in this regard.  It is estimated that public assistance for fast food workers costs U.S. taxpayers $7 Billion a year.  This means that the U.S. government is essentially supporting this industry.  Noted financial commentator Barry Ritholtz asks the obvious question: “Why are profitable, dividend-paying firms receiving taxpayer subsidies?” Continue reading

Unemployment: Part of the Economic Cycle or Secular Shift?

Bob Huebscher just published an outstanding article on the sustained high level of unemployment in the United States.  The question that he seeks to address is whether we are in the recovery phase of a major recession or we are actually in the midst of a long-term shift in the economy.  The article calls these two possible explanations ‘cyclical’ and ‘structural.’  It is worth understanding the key factors that have resulted in the current persistent unemployment levels in order to put the recent modest reduction in unemployment into context.  Are we seeing signs of the long-awaited recovery that will bring us back to full employment or is the recent growth in employment simply variability around a long-term shift in the U.S. economy in which unemployment will remain well-above historical levels? Continue reading