The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 20, 2017

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

New year, higher minimum wage

Happy New Year, minimum wage-earners.

On Jan. 1, 19 states increased their minimum wage, lifting the pay of more than 4.3 million &U.S. workers. "This is the largest number of states ever in a given year to increase their minimum wages absent an increase in the federal minimum wage," said the Economic Policy Institute.

The federal minimum wage, which is the default minimum wage for 20 states without their own laws, is $7.25 per hour, has not changed since 2009. Michigan's minimum wage went from $8.50 per hour to $8.90 per hour on Jan. 1. It marked the second of a gradual 25 percent increase of the minimum wage resulting in $9.25 per hour by 2018.

The most recent major change to Michigan's minimum-wage law came in 2014, by legislation, which led to gradual hikes in pay and also instituted annual increases in the rate tied to the inflation rate beginning April 1, 2019.

Jobless rate ends 2016 at 4.7 percent

The U.S. concluded 2016 with a jobless rate of 4.7 percent in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. That's up 0.1 percent from the month before, but less than half of the high that the nation hit -- 10 percent in October 2009 -- during the Great Recession. The number of jobless is down by more than half from that recession peak, too.

Historically, the nation's jobless rate is well below the post-World War II average of 5.8 percent.

Businesses reportedly created 144,000 new jobs in December, while governments added 12,000, BLS said, citing its separate survey of firms. That brought total claimed new private-sector job creation last year to 1.95 million.

BLS reported 7.53 million people were jobless in December, up 120,000 from the month before, but down almost 400,000 from the end of 2015. At the depths of the crash, in October 2009, there were 15.35 million unemployed.

Not all the December data was rosy.

“In order to keep up with the growth in the labor force, the economy would need to add 881,000 jobs,” the Economic Policy Institute said. “And while the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December, it would actually be 6.1 percent if missing workers” – those who are jobless, who are so discouraged they stopped looking or who work part-time but really want full-time employment – “were included.”

Construction firms shed 3,000 jobs in December, leaving them with 6.69 million workers. That's 14,000 more than a year before. At the depths of the economic crash, when the bottom dropped out of the construction market, particularly for homes, there were 5.5 million on-the-job construction workers in February 2010, and joblessness there was in double digits.

The lowest-paying services again led in creating jobs in December and during 2016: Health care (+63,300 jobs in December and +421,700 in the year) and bars and restaurants (+29,600 in December and +346,600 in the year). Overall, all services created a net of 132,000 jobs in December.