EPI News

April’s employment data signal a step in the right direction but a long path ahead

April’s employment data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics served as more evidence of the slow state of the recovery as the payroll survey came in surprisingly strong with 244,000 jobs added while the household survey went in the opposite direction, with the unemployment rate increasing from 8.8% to 9.0%.

“The rule of thumb when the surveys go in opposite directions is to put more weight on the payroll survey, since it is much larger and less volatile month-to-month,” EPI Economist Heidi Shierholz explained in her analysis of the report.

What is painfully clear from the numbers is the long road still ahead.  Although a net jobs growth of 244,000 is a step in the right direction, particularly because it continues a three month trend of employment growth exceeding 220,000 payroll jobs, the country still has nearly 14 million unemployed workers, not counting the millions more who have lost faith and  given up the job search.

“At April’s job growth rate, it would take until the fall of 2016 to get back to the prerecession unemployment rate,” Shierholz concluded.

Unemployment for African Americans and Hispanics near Great Depression levels in many states

EPI researchers Algernon AustinDoug Hall, and Mary Gable released a series of issue briefs that explored the disturbingly high unemployment among African Americans in MichiganMississippiNorth CarolinaLouisiana, andTexas, and among Hispanics in New Mexico and Texas.  While the national unemployment average gets most major news attention, these papers showed how the national average can hide the complexities and significant disparities in the unemployment rates of different states and various races and ethnicities.

In each state study, the unemployment rates for African American or Hispanic workers were significantly higher than the unemployment rates for white workers, with minority unemployment in some states reaching Great Depression levels.

“While all demographic groups are hurting, the pain of joblessness is more common among African Americans and Hispanics than whites,” noted Austin. “For example, African Americans in 16 states spent most or all of 2010 with unemployment rates 15% or higher, as did Hispanics in Nevada, Connecticut, and California.”

Mexico trade deficit costs jobs in every state

In Heading South: U.S.-Mexico trade and job displacement after NAFTAEPI economist Robert Scott finds that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have seen jobs displaced as a result of the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico.  Since the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) implementation in 1994, 682,900 U.S. jobs have been lost or displaced and the trade deficit with Mexico now totals $97.2 billion. This evidence goes against the initial claims made by proponents of NAFTA that it would lead to growing trade surpluses and significant job gains.

As supporters of the proposed U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement make similar arguments for its enactment, these findings should serve as a caution.

“Abstract promises about increased jobs and exports misrepresent the real overall effects of trade on the U.S. economy,” said Scott. “Like NAFTA, the KORUS FTA will likely result in growing trade deficits and hence U.S. job displacement, not economy-wide job growth,” he continued.

EPI Across the Nation

The Wells Fargo Foundation welcomed EPI Researcher Algernon Austin to their event “Closing the Disparity Gap: Recognizing & Engaging Diverse Talent”held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 6, 2011.  In his keynote address, Austin discussed how the Minneapolis region can best build a stronger, more diverse and engaged workforce.

Austin poses with fellow presenters (left to right):  Keswic Joiner (Director of Risk Management, MN State Colleges & Universities), Velma Korbel  (Director,  Department of Civil Rights, City of Minneapolis), Algernon Austin (EPI Researcher and Director of the Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy program), Robin Hickman (Executive Producer, Soultouch Productions), Joseph Ellis (Senior Vice President for Wealth Management, Wells Fargo), Roxanne Givens  (Founder, MN African American Museum & Cultural Center)

EPI in the News

EPI economist Heidi Shierholz discussed the latest employment numbers withNPR reporter Jim Zarroli. Her paper discussing job prospects for the Class of 2011, The class of 2011: Young workers face a dire labor market without a safety net was also cited by The New York Times McClatchy, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

EPI researcher Algernon Austin’s recent piece, Depressed states: Unemployment rate near 20% for some groups, was cited by The Huffington PostBET, and The Root.   In the paper, Austin analyzes the devastatingly high unemployment rates in some minority communities.

Forbes Magazine quoted EPI researcher Rob Scott in two articles, the first on the ongoing KORUS FTA debate and the second on the state of China’s currency.