Employment Policy and Labor MarketsIn 2001, the US economy entered a seventh consecutive year of expansion and unemployment rates were at 30-year lows. Yet, not all shared in the employment boom. Levy Institute research has found that between 1995 and 1999, only 217,000 jobs—of the more than 13 million created—went to the half of the population holding a high school degree or less; the remaining jobs went to those with at least some college education. Today, in an ever-tightening economy, there are almost nine million unemployed—5.6 percent of the labor force—and four job seekers for each available job. In addition, there are roughly 10 million full-time workers whose wages place them at or below the official poverty line. Clearly, there is room for improvement on the jobs front.
In response to this problem, Levy Institute scholars have proposed a full-employment, or job opportunity, program that would employ all who are willing to work and increase flexibility between economic sectors, thereby lowering the social and economic costs of unemployment. This program is preferable to proposed alternatives such as a reduction of the workweek or employment subsidies, neither of which is sure to raise employment—and both may have serious side effects. Other labor market policies studied by Levy Institute scholars include the effects of technology on earnings, and the effects of an increase in the minimum wage on hiring practices and earnings.
One-Pager No. 55 | May 2018The job guarantee (JG) is finally getting the public debate it deserves, according to Pavlina R. Tcherneva, and criticism is expected. Following the Levy Institute’s latest report analyzing the economic impact of a JG proposal and providing a blueprint for its implementation, Tcherneva responds to alarmist claims that the JG is (1) an expensive big-government takeover, (2) unproductive and impossible to manage, (3) dangerously disruptive to the private sector, and (4) inflationary.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 905 | May 2018
The Vested Interests, Limits to Reform, and the Meaning of Liberal DemocracyI subject some aspects of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to critical analysis, with particular attention to what is termed “liberal democracy.” This analysis demonstrates the limits to reform, given the power of “vested interests” as articulated by Thorstein Veblen.
While progressive economists and others are generally favorably disposed toward the New Deal, a critical perspective casts doubt on the progressive nature of the various programs instituted during the Roosevelt administrations. The main constraint that limited the framing and operation of these programs was that of maintaining liberal democracy. The New Deal was shaped by the institutional forces then dominant in the United States, including the segregationist system of the South. In the end, vested interests dictated what transpired, but what did transpire required a modification of the understanding of liberal democracy.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Policy Note 2018/3 | May 2018The idea of a universal job guarantee (JG) policy for the United States has become the subject of renewed public debate due to a number of high-profile political endorsements. L. Randall Wray recently coauthored a report that presented a JG proposal—the Public Service Employment program—along with estimates of the economic impact of the plan. However, several other variants have been proposed and/or endorsed. In this policy note, Wray seeks to establish common ground among the major JG plans and provides an initial response to critics.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Press Releases | April 2018
Research Project Reports | April 2018Despite reports of a healthy US labor market, millions of Americans remain unemployed and underemployed, or have simply given up looking for work. It is a problem that plagues our economy in good times and in bad—there are never enough jobs available for all who want to work. L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, and Stephanie A. Kelton examine the impact of a new “job guarantee” proposal that would seek to eliminate involuntary unemployment by directly creating jobs in the communities where they are needed.
The authors propose the creation of a Public Service Employment (PSE) program that would offer a job at a living wage to all who are ready and willing to work. Federally funded but with a decentralized administration, the PSE program would pay $15 per hour and offer a basic package of benefits. This report simulates the economic impact over a ten-year period of implementing the PSE program beginning in 2018Q1.
Unemployment, hidden and official, with all of its attendant social harms, is a policy choice. The results in this report lend more weight to the argument that it is a policy choice we need no longer tolerate. True full employment is both achievable and sustainable.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 902 | April 2018
Design, Jobs, and ImplementationThe job guarantee (JG) is a public option for jobs. It is a permanent, federally funded, and locally administered program that supplies voluntary employment opportunities on demand for all who are ready and willing to work at a living wage. While it is first and foremost a jobs program, it has the potential to be transformative by advancing the public purpose and improving working conditions, people’s everyday lives, and the economy as a whole.
This working paper provides a blueprint for operationalizing the proposal. It addresses frequently asked questions and common concerns. It begins by outlining some of the core propositions in the existing literature that have motivated the JG proposal. These propositions suggest specific design and implementation features. (Some questions are answered in greater detail in appendix III). The paper presents the core objectives and expected benefits of the program, and suggests an institutional structure, funding mechanism, and project design and administration.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Policy Note 2018/2 | March 2018Amid a recent upsurge in support for a national job guarantee program, L. Randall Wray, Stephanie A. Kelton, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Scott Fullwiler, and Flavia Dantas outline a new proposal for a federally funded program with decentralized administration. Their Public Service Employment (PSE) program would offer a job—paying a uniform living wage with a basic benefits package—to all who are ready and willing to work. In advance of an upcoming report detailing the economic impact of the PSE, this policy note presents an overview of the goals and structure of the program in the context of current labor market trends and the prospects of poverty reduction.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Related Topic(s):
Working Paper No. 899 | January 2018The goal of this paper is to examine the patterns and movements of the gender pay gaps in the countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU) and to place them in the context of advanced economies. We survey over 30 publications and conduct a meta-analysis of this literature. Gender pay gaps in the region are considerable and above the levels observed in advanced economies. Similar to advanced economies, industrial and occupational segregation widens the gaps in the FSU countries, whereas gender differences in educational attainment tend to shrink them. However, a much higher proportion of the gaps remain unexplained, pointing toward the role of unobserved gender differences related to actual and perceived productivity. Over the last 25 years, the gaps contracted in most FSU countries, primarily due to the reduction in the unexplained portion. Underlying the contraction at the mean are different movements in the gap across the pay distribution. Although the glass-ceiling effect has diminished in some FSU countries, it has persisted in others. We investigate the reasons underlying these findings and argue that the developments in the FSU region shed new light on our understanding of the gender pay gaps.Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):Region(s):Russia and Eastern Europe
Working Paper No. 895 | August 2017This paper examines two key aspects of unemployment—its propagation mechanism and socioeconomic costs. It identifies a key feature of this macroeconomic phenomenon: it behaves like a disease. A detailed assessment of the transmission mechanism and the existing pecuniary and nonpecuniary costs of unemployment suggests a fundamental shift in the policy responses to tackling joblessness. To stem the contagion effect and its outsized social and economic impact, fiscal policy can be designed around two criteria for successful disease intervention—preparedness and prevention. The paper examines how a job guarantee proposal uniquely meets those two requirements. It is a policy response whose merits include much more than its macroeconomic stabilization features, as discussed in the literature. It is, in a sense, a method of inoculation against the vile effects of unemployment. The paper discusses several preventative features of the program.
Download:Associated Program(s):Author(s):Related Topic(s):Employer of Last Resort (ELR) policy Employment guarantee Job guarantee Labor markets Macroeconomic policy UnemploymentRegion(s):United States
One-Pager No. 53 | February 2017
Demographics or Lack of Jobs?
Aging demographics, “social shifts,” and other supply-side and institutional factors have commonly been blamed for the fall in the US labor force participation rate. However, depressed labor force participation for prime-age workers is likely due to a combination of insufficient aggregate demand, weak job creation, and stagnant wages—all of which have been persistent problems over the past three or four decades. Although insufficient aggregate demand is the main problem, general “Keynesian” pump priming is not the answer. Stimulus needs to take the form of targeted job creation to tighten labor markets for less-skilled workers.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Flavia Dantas L. Randall WrayRelated Topic(s):