State and local policymakers in many parts of the country are coming to the conclusion that too many workers get paid too little, and they are pushing for higher wage standards for workers. Yet in Wisconsin, lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction.
Thousands of out-of-work Wisconsinites who have been searching for a job for a long time will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year, unless Congress acts to renew federal unemployment benefits. According to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project, 65,500 jobless workers in Wisconsin will lose access to federal benefits over the next six months, as shown in the chart below.
Most states pay unemployment insurance benefits to jobless workers for a maximum of 26 weeks. In times of higher unemployment, Congress authorizes federally-funded benefits that provide assistance to people who reach the limit on their state-financed unemployment insurance. If the program that provides federal unemployment benefits is allowed to end, the maximum duration of unemployment benefits for jobless workers in Wisconsin will drop by more than half, from 54 weeks to 26 weeks.
November was Native American Heritage Month, but for most of the month all we have heard about was the mascot issue and casinos. The national stories about the “code-talkers” during World War II were a welcome exception to the dearth of positive stories about American Indians during the first half of the month, though those stories drew attention to just a very brief glimpse of Indian history and contributions.
In addition to wishing that the media would shed more light on Native Americans’ contributions to American history and culture, I would like to hear more about the economic challenges facing American Indians, particularly those living in “Indian country.” The following graphic, prepared by my colleague Tamarine Cornelius, shows that the unemployment rate for Native Americans in Wisconsin is almost twice the rate for non-Hispanic whites, and the poverty rate is more than two and a half times as high for Native Americans (25.3% vs. Read more
Yesterday’s competition between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings ended in a rare tie game. That game is finished, but there is another competition that is still going on between Wisconsin and Minnesota, one that involves job creation and economic growth, rather than touchdowns and field goals.
Wisconsin and Minnesota are similar states in many ways, but we are taking very different approaches to growing our state economies. Policymakers in Wisconsin have focused on cutting taxes, especially for corporations and the wealthiest, sharply reducing state spending on K-12 education and the university system, and limiting tax credits and other services that give a boost to struggling families. In contrast, policymakers in Minnesota have targeted the state’s highest earners for an increase in income taxes, kept education spending on an even keel during the recession, and expanded Medicaid.
The different approaches to economic development amount to a type of experiment, one that policymakers from other states will be watching with a close eye. Read more
A Gallup poll conducted last week found strong public support for boosting the minimum wage (now $7.25/hr.) to $9.00 per hour. That change was supported by 76% of Americans, with only 22% opposed. Here are a few of the other highlights from the national survey of 1,040 adults:
- The support was solid across the political spectrum – with the backing of 58% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 91 % of Democrats.
- Support wasn’t quite as strong for indexing the minimum wage for inflation (after raising it to $9), yet that was endorsed by 68% of adults and opposed by 29%.
- Public support for an increase to $9.00 was up 5 percentage points since early March, when 71% were in favor and 27% against the proposal.
The national poll was conducted by Gallup last week at about the same time that 61% of New Jersey voters supported an amendment to that state’s constitution to raise the minimum wage $1 to $8.25 and index it for inflation (even as they reelected Governor Christie, who had opposed that measure). Read more
New LFB Paper Illustrates Why Tapping TANF Funding Appears Unlikely
The Assembly overwhelmingly approved a bill today that we strongly support, because it is aimed at expanding a program to provide on-the-job training to low-income people. The only catch is that it isn’t funded, and the prospects for funding it don’t look promising anytime soon.
The bill in question is SB 333, which is part of the package of workforce training bills proposed by the Governor in late September. It authorizes expansion of the Transitional Jobs program, which now only operates in Milwaukee. Transitional Jobs was first implemented several years ago as a pilot program, with funding from the federal Recovery Act. Although that came to an end, the 2013-15 biennial budget bill created a new version of it in Milwaukee, which is now called the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program. It was allocated $9.9 million from the federal welfare reform block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Read more
Could Lack of New Funding Divert Resources from the Current Milwaukee Program?
We were very pleased to learn a couple of weeks ago that the package of workforce training bills being proposed by the Governor includes one to expand the Transitional Jobs program, which now only operates in Milwaukee. Our enthusiasm was tempered when we realized that the bill isn’t funded. Apparently, the idea is to use existing funding to expand the program, but a funding source hasn’t been identified.
Transitional Jobs programs provide on-the-job training to low-income people. Wisconsin’s Transitional Jobs program was first implemented several years ago as a pilot program, with funding from the federal Recovery Act. Although that came to an end, the 2013-15 biennial budget bill created a new version of it in Milwaukee, which is now called the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program. It was allocated $9.9 million from the federal welfare reform block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Read more
The State of Working Wisconsin: Update 2013
A Labor Day tradition is that the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) either rewrites or updates their comprehensive biennial report called the State of Working Wisconsin, which provides a thorough examination of Wisconsin job numbers, wages, poverty, and job quality. This year COWS released a five-page update that you can find here.
The short report explains that the gradual rebound in jobs following the Great Recession has been much slower than previous recoveries, and Wisconsin’s job growth is well behind the weak national recovery. COWS’ analysis found that “Wisconsin would have 33,000 more jobs today if we’d only kept on pace with the national recovery” (which would add one-third more to the increase of 99,000 jobs since the Wisconsin economy began to recover in Feb. 2010). They note that although employment growth began to accelerate in the rest of the Midwest in 2012, Wisconsin’s recovery “seems stuck in a lower gear.”
The COWS report examines job trends in Wisconsin by sector to determine where the “missing jobs” are. Read more
“Moderate” Growth Anticipated by DOR Would Yield 137,000 Jobs During Walker’s Four-year Term
Wisconsin can expect “moderate” economic growth over the next several years, according to an “Economic Outlook” report issued today by the Department of Revenue (DOR). The new report, which includes estimates for a wide range of economic indicators until 2016, projects that Wisconsin will gain about 137,000 private sector jobs during the four years after Scott Walker was elected Governor (which would be about 55% of the 250,000 jobs that the Governor promised). That represents a projected increase of 5.9% over four years, compared to an expected 6.8% increase in employment at the national level.
Some of the other noteworthy findings or projections include the following:
- Personal income growth in Wisconsin is expected to slow to 1.9% for 2013, before accelerating to 4.6% in 2014 and 4.4% in each of the following two years (not adjusted for inflation).
Grover Norquist Neglects the Facts in Exhorting North Carolina to Follow Wisconsin Path
In a recent article, political commentator and conservative strategist Grover Norquist urged North Carolina lawmakers to make their state the “new Wisconsin.” He uses or misuses one piece of economic data to suggest that Wisconsin’s economy is thriving, while ignoring ample evidence that indicates otherwise. That argument shows the same sort of inattentiveness to or disregard of economic facts that led many conservatives to advocate that the U.S. should emulate the fiscal austerity policies being practiced in the European Union.
The one piece of economic evidence cited by Norquist and the article’s coauthor, Patrick Gleason, is that over the past two years, since Governor Walker signed the last biennial budget bill, “the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 7.6 percent to 7 percent — below the national average.” It’s true that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is below average – but that’s nothing new and can’t be traced back to a particular policy agenda. Read more