Friday, April 28, 2017

The Work’s New Age Blog: Five Years of The Bipartisan Pro-Jobs Truth

Hard to believe, but it’s now been half a decade.

I posted for the first time here on April 10th, 2012, with a preliminary welcome message.  Since then I have come back 262 times, or almost exactly once a week. 

My original idea was to give insight on employment in America, especially supporting the thesis, which I still hold, that the jobs crisis is permanent and will not go away with better economic times.  A few months before I had released the book of the same name, and several of the posts were taken from it.  Since then I have incorporated ideas from my follow-on volume, Choosing a Lasting Career

This blog has evolved since then.  I have moved into public policy, first on Barack Obama’s words and actions and the same with his successor Donald Trump.  I have looked at not only the specifics of what is happening with jobs here, but also in other countries.  I have written on larger changes I see, some similar to those documented in my books but some different.  Over the past year or so I have focused especially on a few fast-changing areas critical for American employment, namely driverless vehicles, robots, the sharing economy, the minimum wage, and guaranteed income.  These are where the action is, and will shape much of what happens with jobs in the next decade and beyond.  

My political views are easy to identify but hard to consolidate.  I am independent and objective, and do not seek to reinforce or validate my readers’ opinions, whatever they are.  I am classically conservative on environmentalism, minimum wages, and government intervention in general.  I am liberal on overtime laws, social services for the poor and unemployed, and drug legalization.  I am in favor of a guaranteed income, though not yet, and think gun laws should be adjusted in both directions rather than weakened or strengthened overall.  I get my news from sources on the left, center, and right and consider ideas from all of them.  I recommend that to everyone.   

My real bias is in favor of more jobs, whatever their pay and benefits, so come out against anything that works against that.  Those in favor of mandating $15 per hour or want to ensure that all employment pays “a living wage” or some such don’t seem to understand that geographic and personal differences make defining that impossible.  I find it cruel that people who would dearly like to work, even at less than legal minimums, are barred from doing that. 

Will I write more books?  Probably, though most likely not for a while.  In the meantime, my platform includes several other outlets.  One is my weekly 5-minute radio show, WORK SHIFT, on WJFF 90.5 FM in nearby Jeffersonville, New York, which comes on at 10:00am Eastern Time on Wednesday mornings.  You can also listen to its stream, at, and on podcasts at   Another is my generally monthly 50-minute talk show appearance on The 11th Hour on WRTA 1240 AM out of Altoona, Pennsylvania – this show, hosted by Doug Herendeen and the winner of two Associated Press awards, also streams, at, with the next one scheduled for 11:05am ET on May 17th.  I maintain three Facebook pages, Work’s New Age, Choosing a Lasting Career, and AJSN, at,, and, and also send Twitter messages through @worksnewageusa, with links to #jobs and #employment.  I produce and release the AJSN, or American Job Shortage Number, which tells in one figure how many more positions could be quickly filled if getting one were easy, monthly.  All of this and more is on my website at  I also send out a newsletter eight times a year with my summary of the employment situation – if you want to be on its list, email me at

Thank you for reading.  I will be back next week, as usual, and hope for at least five more years.   

Friday, April 21, 2017

Minimum Wage Increases: Plenty in 2017, But Fewer On the Way

On January 1 we saw a lot of states raising their lowest legal pay even further from the $7.25 federal bottom.  According to Karl Russell’s “A Higher Minimum Wage in 2017” (The New York Times, January 5), 29 states and the District of Columbia have compensation floors higher than the national, with concentrations on the Northeast and the West Coast, and 19 boosted them more, effective the beginning of the year.  Seven, with annual increases tied to inflation, lifted theirs 10 cents an hour or less, but in five – Arizona, Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, and Colorado – it jumped 99 cents or beyond.  The District’s, higher than any state at $11.50, did not change, but the top six, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Connecticut, Arizona, and Vermont, each went up 40 cents or more and are now at least $10.

However, the pace is heading for a slowdown.  Except for those indexing their minimum wages to inflation, only ten states have voted for future increases.  Of those, only California and New York, along with the District of Columbia, have committed to reaching $15 per hour.     
Will there be many more this year?  Three pieces published since then suggest it is unlikely.  The first, also in the New York Times, Noam Scheiber’s January 10th “Higher Minimum Wage May Have Losers,” noteworthy for appearing in a news outlet consistently in favor of raising it in the past, cited two studies, one at New York University showing that increasing minimum pay had the effect of making fewer working hours available, and one from Harvard Business School and Mathematica Policy Research concluding that such wage boosts were often followed by restaurants, especially ones rated low on the Yelp website, closing.  In this area, where controlled experiments of course cannot be conducted, all research results are controversial and unreplicable, but each study does become a data point.

The same conclusion was put forth by Forbes columnist Tim Worstall, in “Surprise, San Diego’s Minimum Wage Rise Appears To Be Killing Restaurant Jobs” (April 12th).  This author, previously and now against higher pay floors, wrote that “roughly… 50% of people in restaurants get the minimum wage and some 50% of the people who get it work in restaurants,” and cited a report that, after San Diego increased their minimum ahead of the rest of California to $11.50, 3,900 food service positions were either “lost, or never created in the first place.”  Worstall’s best point here is that higher mandated levels effect not only jobs that end but ones that would otherwise have started and didn’t.  Measuring those, though, is not easy. 

“Has the Movement to Raise the Minimum Wage Reached Its Limit?”  That question was explored by Scott Calvert and Eric Morath in The Wall Street Journal on April 6th.  They named Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh’s veto of a proposition that would raise the minimum to $15 by 2022, which matched the end of a similar effort made in Maryland’s Montgomery County, even though it borders the already-$15-approving District of Columbia.  Pugh, though a Democrat, said that although higher pay was good, she also wished for her “city to survive” – and who should know better?  Another point here is that providing a date by which a large minimum wage increase will take effect, especially if years in the future, gives automation companies a deadline by which they can make available robots and other machines costing less than that per hour.  It also affects longer-range business plans such as opening factories, one example of which Calvert and Morath gave. 

As I have written before, my bias is in the direction of more jobs.  It remains simple economics that requiring employers to pay more than they would otherwise need to do means they will offer fewer of them.  As these authors have shown, that not only manifests itself in jobs that are discontinued, but in those that were never created in the first place.  It is too early to get much data on this year’s minimum wage increases, but it will come in – expect more here as it does.  

Friday, April 14, 2017

Five Observations on Trump, or Why We Aren’t Heading to Authoritarianism

Donald J. Trump’s surprising election to president – and again, if you don’t agree with that assessment, you should have quintupled some of your money by betting on him – scared a lot of us, and rightfully so.  Although we still need to wonder if he will push North Korea or even China too far and get us all nuked, the threat of an American totalitarian state that concerned many, including me, has faded dramatically.  Why?  To see that, consider the following.

First, a solid wall of opposition, with The New York Times and Washington Post in the middle, has formed.  These front-line publications have been emitting a steady stream of anti-Trump editorials and opinion pieces.  Many of these items are essentially pointless, decrying him for being himself or bemoaning his lack of interest in liberal-appeal issues such as climate change, but others critique his actions from his own stated standpoints, or from what they consider reasonable presidential behavior.  The writings’ overall effect is to show that nationally-respected commentators are watching, documenting, and freely disapproving of what he does.  There was nothing similar at all in 1933 Germany.

Second, Trump is consistently coming off not as evil but as incompetent.  He, as expected, shows no inclination or even ability to negotiate with his political opposition.  He is not assembling any sort of authoritarian government, or even a full government at all, with the number of appointments he has made being far smaller than that from even his most anti-bureaucracy predecessors. 

Third, as shown by his failure to repeal Obamacare, our federal checks and balances are still working effectively.  In the House and Senate he has enough opposition within his own party, let alone from Democrats, to stop him from dictating anything which would consolidate power into the executive branch.  The addition of Neil Gorsuch means only that the Supreme Court is ideologically similar to what it was before the vacancy he filled materialized, when it was hardly a source of fascist legal interpretations.

Fourth, Trump is lacking in solid allies.  Although he has done some things which should please true conservatives, such as approving the Keystone pipeline, his previous hostility toward them has made those in Congress at most temporarily on his side.  Among constituents, though surveys show he has lost only a small percentage of his supporters, he is gaining even fewer.  It is possible that, during his first term, he will reach a point where he will be able to rely on nobody, with the Goering, Himmler, and Goebbels equivalents nowhere to be seen.

Fifth, with all that said, the outcome of Trump’s time in office is still very much unknown.  We know remarkably little about which ideological segment will benefit most from his failures in the 2018 and 2020 elections.  His current scandals, especially given a Republican-dominated legislature, do not project to be nearly sufficient for impeachment, yet the Predictwise site gives him a 49% chance of being out of office before 2020, and, at, you can win $10 for every $18.50 you wager that he will complete four full years.  The latter site gives the same odds for a Republican or a Democrat to win the next presidential contest, with the most likely individual winner, after Trump, being Democrat Elizabeth Warren, at 8 to 1 against.  That’s all we know – stay tuned, as that could change suddenly… and unpredictably.                  

Friday, April 7, 2017

AJSN (American Job Shortage Number): We’re Now 17.2 Million Positions Short, After Good Federal Employment Report

This morning the headline jobs number came in much worse than expected.  Far from a projection of 180,000, there were only 98,000 net new nonfarm positions created in March.  But don’t let that fool you.

Almost everything else improved, starting with stunning drops in the official unemployment rates.  The one you hear about the most, seasonally adjusted, did not stay at 4.7% as some expected but fell to 4.5%.  The unadjusted figure, higher since in March fewer people are working than in an average month, plunged even more, from 4.9% to 4.6%. 

The other results were consistently favorable.  The count of long-term unemployed, or people officially jobless and out for 27 weeks or longer, was off 100,000 to 1.7 million.  The tally of those working part-time for economic reasons, or unsuccessfully seeking full-time work while maintaining shorter-hours employment, also dropped 100,000, reaching 5.6 million.  Average private nonfarm wages were up a nickel an hour to $26.14, nothing trivial when inflation is less.  While the labor force participation rate stayed at a strong-by-recent-standards 63.0%, the employment to population ratio, helped by lower joblessness, ticked up 0.1% to 60.1%. 

The American Job Shortage Number or AJSN, which shows latent demand for work, or how many more American positions could be filled if getting one were known to be easy and routine, dropped a surprising 647,000, with the categories of marginal attachment adding 105,000 to the effect of reduced official joblessness, as follows:

 Compared with a year before, an important evaluation since the AJSN is not seasonally adjusted, the metric is down 584,000, with lower unemployment partially offset by a substantial increase in the count of those reporting interest in work but not having looked for it for at least a year. 

The net new jobs disappointment, and its failure to match those needed for population increase, notwithstanding, March was clearly a positive month.  With room to spare in February’s 235,000 gain, the data gives no signs of a correction, and already excellent figures such as the unemployment rates are still improving.  The share of latent demand coming from official joblessness is now only 38%, meaning that there is too much unfulfilled general interest in work for the economy to be as robust as that 4.5% would indicate.  Yet the turtle, once again, did take a step forward.