Rutgers' Labor Scorecard Shows Concerns, Bright Spots for American Workers

Rutgers' Labor Scorecard Shows Concerns, Bright Spots for American Workers

Jobs, consumer debt, health care costs among worries

 

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Labor Day honors the contributions American workers make to the United States economy, but a new National Labor Scorecard released today by the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) reveals a mixed bag for workers, who may have less to celebrate and more to be concerned about this year.

“The economy is the number one issue going into the presidential race, and the scorecard provides a way to look at this area from the perspective of the American worker,” said Professor Douglas Kruse, a labor economist, who created the scorecard along with his colleagues at SMLR, a leading resource on workforce issues.

This initial National Labor Scorecard, which will be released annually for Labor Day, pulls together a wide range of national indicators to provide a comprehensive picture of the condition of the U.S. workforce. The scorecard provides the latest data on workforce trends from both government and nongovernment sources, and also compares this year’s data with trends over the last decade.

“There are many causes of concern, particularly with the sharp decline in the number of Americans able to find full-time jobs, as well as the continued growth in inequality, the sharp increase in consumer debt and growing costs of health care,” Kruse said.  “But there are some bright spots long term: steady improvements in workplace safety; a growing – though still very small percentage – of employers who offer some support for childcare and employee wellness programs; and the fact that more Americans who have jobs are completely satisfied with them.”

“We hope that along with barbecues and a final weekend at the beach, that the Scorecard will become a new Labor Day tradition,” said SMLR Dean David Finegold, who conceived of the scorecard. “It provides a quick snapshot to let us reflect on how the average American worker and their families are faring in today’s highly competitive global economy.”   

Scorecard Highlights

Employment

•     Today, more than 10 percent of Americans are unemployed, discouraged from seeking work, or underemployed, a nearly 25-percent increase (24.2 percent) from one year earlier. 

•     More than a half million Americans (530,000) have been subject to mass layoffs in the last year, a growth of nearly 5 percent, but a lower rate than five and 10 years ago.

•     Over the last eight years, the percent of workers who are working part time who would prefer to be in full-time jobs has gone up over 72 percent.

•     The percentage of Americans working more than 48 hours/week has been steadily declining, to the latest figure of 17.8 percent.

•     Unemployment rates are highest for blacks and Hispanics/Latinos, and their increases in the past year have been greater than the increases for whites. 

Earnings and Wealth

•     Despite a significant increase in the Federal minimum wage that went into effect in 2008, it is still lower in real terms than a decade ago. 

•     The median weekly earnings for American workers have not grown in real terms over the last eight years.

•     Pay inequality is high and continues to increase, while wealth inequality is high but fairly stable.

•     Significant earnings disparities persist but have closed somewhat for women, blacks, and Hispanics/Latinos. 

Healthcare and Benefits

•     Despite the growing number of Americans without health insurance, the percentage participating in employer-sponsored health plans has remained very stable over the last decade.

•     The contribution employees pay for health coverage, however, has been increasing sharply.

•     There has been a rapid growth in employer-assisted childcare and employee wellness programs over the last decade, but these still cover less than one quarter of American workers.

Worker Safety and Representation

•     Perhaps the brightest long-term news is the steady decline in the rate of fatal and nonfatal injuries for American workers.

•     After decades of decline, there was a small increase in the percentage of workers represented by unions.

Workers’ Own Views

•     Despite the difficult economic times, the percentage of Americans reporting they are “completely satisfied” with their jobs is up over the last year (to 48%), and has grown over the last decade.

The National Labor Scorecard compiled by SMLR complements a study issued last week by Rutgers’ John Heldrich Center for Workforce Development that shows American workers are anxious about jobs and the economy. For more information on the Heldrich study, go online to http://www.heldrich.rutgers.edu/.

Media Contact: Steve Manas
732-932-7084 ext. 612
E-mail: smanas@ur.rutgers.edu