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Economic analysis is often geared toward understanding the average effects of a given policy or program. Likewise, economic policies frequently target the average person or firm. While averages are undoubtedly useful reference points for researchers and policymakers, they don’t tell the whole story: it is vital to understand how the effects of economic trends and government policies vary across geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic boundaries. It is also important to assess the underlying causes of the various inequalities we observe around us, whether they are related to income, health, or any other set of indicators. Starting today, we are running a series of six blog posts (apart from this introductory post), each of which focuses on an interesting case of heterogeneity in the United States.
Two years after hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the two territories’ economies have moved in very different directions. When the hurricanes struck, both were already in long economic slumps and had significant fiscal problems. As of the summer of 2019, however, Puerto Rico’s economy was showing considerable signs of improvement since the hurricanes, while the Virgin Islands’ economy remained mired in a deep slump through the end of 2018, though signs of a nascent recovery have emerged in 2019. In this post, we assess the contrasting trends of these two economies since the hurricanes and attempt to explain the forces driving these trends.
The federal minimum wage, currently set at $7.25 per hour, has remained unchanged for the longest stretch of time since its 1938 inception under the Fair Labor Standards Act. With the real purchasing power of the federal minimum wage eroded by inflation, many states and municipalities have raised their local minimum wages. As of July 2019, fourteen states plus the District of Columbia—home to 35 percent of Americans—have minimum wages above $10 per hour, as do numerous localities scattered across other states. New York is among a handful of states—along with California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey—that has passed legislation to eventually increase minimum wages to $15 per hour. While New York began raising its minimum wage from $7.25 per hour in 2014, neighboring Pennsylvania has left its minimum wage unchanged at the federal floor. Minimum-wage variation between contiguous states has allowed researchers to evaluate the respective impacts on employment and average earnings. In this post, we gauge the effect of New York’s recent minimum-wage hikes by comparing low-wage sectors in counties along the New York-Pennsylvania border.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s July 2019 SCE Labor Market Survey shows a year-over-year rise in employer-to-employer transitions as well as an increase in transitions into unemployment. Satisfaction with promotion opportunities and wage compensation was largely unchanged, while satisfaction with non-wage benefits retreated. Regarding expectations, the average expected wage offer (conditional on receiving one) and the average reservation wage—the lowest wage at which respondents would be willing to accept a new job—both increased. Expectations regarding job transitions were largely stable.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, Michelle Jiang, and William Nober
In an earlier post, we studied how educational attainment affects labor market outcomes and earnings inequality. In this post, we investigate whether these labor market effects were preserved across the last business cycle: Did students with certain types of educational attainment weather the recession better?
College is much more expensive than it used to be. Tuition for a bachelor’s degree has more than tripled from an (inflation-adjusted) average of about $5,000 per year in the 1970s to around $18,000 today. For many parents and prospective students, this high and rising tuition has raised concerns about whether getting a college degree is still worth it—a question we addressed in a 2014 study. In this post, we update that study, estimating the cost of college in terms of both out-of-pocket expenses, like tuition, and opportunity costs, the wages one gives up to attend school. We find that the cost of college has increased sharply over the past several years, though tuition increases are not the primary driver. Rather, opportunity costs have increased substantially as the wages of those without a college degree have climbed due to a strong labor market. In a follow-up post, we will consider whether college is still “worth it” by weighing the benefits relative to the costs to estimate the return to a college degree.
As we outlined in our previous post, the United States lost close to six million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010 but since then has gained back almost one million. In this post, we take a closer look at the geographic dimension of this modest rebound in manufacturing jobs. While job losses during the 2000s were fairly widespread across the country, manufacturing employment gains since then have been concentrated in particular parts of the country. Indeed, these gains were especially large in “auto alley”—a narrow motor vehicle production corridor stretching from Michigan south to Alabama—while much of the Northeast continued to shed manufacturing jobs. Closer to home, many of the metropolitan areas in the New York-Northern New Jersey region have been left out of this rebound and are continuing to shed manufacturing jobs, though Albany has bucked this trend with one of the strongest performances in the country.
Jaison R. Abel, Tony Davis, Richard Deitz, and Edison Reyes
Community colleges frequently work with local employers to help shape the training of students and incumbent workers. This type of engagement has become an increasingly important strategy for community colleges to help students acquire the right skills for available jobs, and also helps local employers find and retain workers with the training they need. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York conducted a survey of community colleges in New York State with the goal of documenting the amount and types of these kinds of activities taking place. Our report, Employer Engagement by Community Colleges in New York State, summarizes the findings of our survey.
The rate of employer-to-employer transitions and the average wage of full-time offers rose compared with a year ago, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s July 2018 SCE Labor Market Survey. Workers’ satisfaction with their promotion opportunities improved since July 2017, while their satisfaction with wage compensation retreated slightly. Regarding expectations, the average expected wage offer (conditional on receiving one) and the reservation wage—the lowest wage at which respondents would be willing to accept a new job—both increased. The expected likelihood of moving into unemployment over the next four months showed a small uptick, which was most pronounced for female respondents.
Puerto Rico recently observed the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria—the most destructive storm to hit the Commonwealth since the San Felipe Segundo hurricane in 1928. Maria, combined with Hurricane Irma, which had glanced the island about two weeks prior, is estimated to have caused nearly 3,000 deaths and tens of billions of dollars of physical damage. Millions went without power for weeks, in most cases months. Basic services—water, sewage, telecommunications, medical care, schools—suffered massive disruptions. While it is difficult to assign a cost to all the suffering endured by Puerto Rico’s population, we can now at least get a better read on the economic effect of the storms. In this blog post, we look at a few key economic indicators to gauge the negative effects of the storms and the extent of the subsequent rebound—not only for the Commonwealth as a whole, but for its various geographic areas and industry sectors. We also examine data from the New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel to assess how well households held up financially and what effects the home mortgage foreclosure and payment moratoria had.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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