Two reports came out today on jobs in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, offering, superficially at least, very different prognoses for the job market in our region. The City Controller's Office found that job availability — that is, the number of jobs for every unemployed person — and wages were up significantly in Philadelphia from a few years ago. But the Keystone Research Center, which released its "State of Working PA" report today, found that statewide, job growth has slowed and wages have declined since 2010.
After an initially strong recovery from the recession, Pennsylvania has ranked 46th in the nation in job growth since January 2011. "We had an early advantage coming out of the recesssion," KRC economist Mark Price says. But due to government policies, "we lost that advantage."
Pennsylvania saw employment growth of 1.3 percent; in Philadelphia it was just 0.3 percent.
KRC found that state budget decisions were the largest factor in weighing down the job market. They estimate that between January 2011 and July 2013, Pennsylvania lost 45,000 public-sector jobs, mostly in elementary and secondary schools. The impact of those layoffs also was felt in the private sector, says Price. "When you're laying off teachers and other public-sector workers, they're not spending money."
Public-sector layoffs were also a factor in keeping unemployment rates higher for women and for people with college educations. Among college-educated Pennsylvanians, unemployment in 2012 was 4.8 percent, even higher than it was in 2010 (4.5 percent). The number of poverty-wage jobs, meanwhile, increasedy by 11 percent.
"We were going in the right direction, but our policies recently are shrinking our middle class," says KRC's Stephen Herzenberg. KRC believes raising wages to at least $15 per hour and reinvesting in education are critical to growing the economy.
In Philadelphia, City Controller Alan Butkovitz reports that there are now 1.77 unemployed people for each job, improved from 2.31 in June 2011. He reports that the mean wage in Philadelphia increased from $57,281 to $71,300 in the past five years.
Of course, mean is not the same as median, as the KRC report underscores. Nationwide, the average CEO makes 273 times more than the average worker. CEO pay was just 29 times higher than worker pay in 1978.
Herzenberg says the spreading fast-food worker protests may be an indication that people are no longer willing to accept that inequality. They're beginning to realize that the "world could be organized differently" — and that we'd actually have a stronger economy as a result.
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