EPI News

The State of Working America

Labor Day preview of biennial resource
This week, EPI released the 11th edition of its flagship publication: The State of Working America 2008-09. EPI economists and authors Jared Bernstein, Larry Mishel, and Heidi Shierholz show that, while the 2000s could have been a time of shared prosperity, only a small percentage of the nation’s workers benefited from the booming economy. In a national conference call with journalists, the three authors highlighted their findings. According to Bernstein, while the growth of worker output, or productivity, surpassed the high levels of the 1990s, paychecks stagnated and employer-provided benefits continued to decrease. Shierholz emphasized the halt in job creation and the rise in unemployed workers–1.5 million more at the end of the 2000s business cycle than at its beginning. And Mishel showed how the upward redistribution of wealth leaves struggling families with less. Rich with charts and text on earnings, health care coverage, growing inequality, and international comparisons, the book gives an extensive analysis of the economic situation for working Americans, offering evidence for why many Americans experienced the 2000s as a recession, even while the economy grew. Visit the State of Working America Web site now and in coming months to read excerpts, download charts, and to order your copy.

Annual Census numbers on poverty, income, and health coverage
The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual release of poverty, income, and health coverage on Tuesday held some good news for Americans, but drilling down below the surface revealed a continuing erosion of the economy for working people. Although median household income increased slightly and the poverty rate was essentially unchanged from 2006 to 2007, incomes for working families (as opposed to retirees) actually dropped. The decline was especially significant when compared to median income in 2000, which is a better comparison because–like 2007–it was the final year of a cycle of economic growth. Given current conditions, income levels will surely decline further in 2008. The biggest surprise of the release came in the area of health care coverage. The number of uninsured dropped slightly in 2007, but, as EPI economist Elise Gould determined, the decline was due to an increase in government-sponsored coverage for children. Meanwhile, the rate of employer-based insurance coverage continued its seven-year slide.

Social Security: Safe and sound
A recent Congressional Budget Office study confirmed that the Social Security program will be solidly funded for several decades, despite the alarmist predictions being promoted by the well-financed Peterson Foundation, according to a Policy Memo by EPI economist Monique Morrissey. In the long-run, the best way to ensure continued Social Security stability is to fix the U.S. health care system, Morrissey notes.