Morning Economic News

Morning Must Reads: Asset Test Snark, School Police and Property Taxes

Lancaster Rep. Mike Sturla was quoted in Capitolwire (paywall) on a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) proposal to limit access to SNAP, or food stamp, benefits to households with fewer than $5,500 in assets:

"We're going to take the concept of the safety net and flip it and tell people they have to impoverish themselves before they get the benefits."

This quote caught the eye of the Commonwealth Foundation's Nathan Benefield.

Morning Must Reads: Asset Tests, Layoffs and The Race To Give Away Tax Dollars To Big Oil

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare submitted its final proposal to the federal Food and Nutrition Service for an asset test on SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps).

Morning Must Reads: The Payroll Tax Cut, Cuts in Block Grants for Local Gov and the State Use Tax

The economic news in the past couple of weeks has been relatively positive so that must mean it is time for another down to the wire battle in Washington to help restore pessimism! At the end of the month, temporary extensions to the payroll tax credit and extended unemployment benefits will expire. With unemployment high, both measures should be extended through the end of the year.

Morning Must Reads: Local Jobs Data, Holding the Jobless Hostage and the History of Banker Pay

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) has released local data on jobs in December. Later today L&I will release the full data here. What follows is a run down of how newspapers across the commonwealth covered the new release.

Morning Must Reads: You Get What You Pay For: Human and Physical Capital

In the State of the Union address last week, President Obama called for more investment in programs that link training in higher education to employers. This morning the Harrisburg Patriot-News has an excellent article detailing one such program here in Central Pennsylvania.

Morning Must Reads: EITC Awareness, New Economic Geography and Stigmatizing The Hungry

Today is Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) awareness day! 

EITC, the Earned Income Tax Credit, sometimes called EIC is a tax credit to help you keep more of what you earned. Congress originally approved the tax credit legislation in 1975 in part to offset the burden of social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit.

Since we are on the topic of the EITC, today is a good day to highlight a proposal to strengthen both the minimum wage and the earned income tax credit so that they are more effective tools for reducing poverty.

Morning Must Reads: Compare and Contrast: Executives and Teachers

The New York Times this morning has yet another story that is sure to dominate public conversation over the next week or so. Read it or else!

Morning Must Reads: SOTU 2012: Community Colleges, Workforce Development, Taxes & Infrastructure

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a pretty good summary of the State of the Union.

Here is the full text of the President's speech, and Wonkblog has a version of the speech with only what they define as specific policy proposals.

What follows are our favorites from the speech.

Morning Must Reads: State of The Union, Stimulus and Austerity Economics PA Style

Tonight President Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address to Congress. We are expecting the President to recommend an extension through the end of 2012 of extended unemployment insurance benefits and the payroll tax credit. It looks as though a major theme in the address — besides the catch phrase “built to last” — will be conventional policies aimed at reducing inequality, such as increased spending/tax credits for education and training.

Education and training are important and fruitful means of reducing inequality, but they fall well short of what's needed to reduce the degree of inequality we now face.  A more forceful step in the direction of reducing inequality would include raising the minimum wage and making it easier for workers to form and join unions. We don't expect to hear the President call for either of those changes.

The President will propose paying for his new initiatives with higher taxes on wealthy households. As with education and training, restoring some sense of fairness to the tax code is a laudable goal but longer-lasting reductions in inequality will only come from policies that allow the pre-tax wages of more Americans to rise as the size and wealth of our economy grows.

Morning Must Reads: Job Growth in 2011 and More Layoffs, Higher Property Taxes in 2012

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry released data on employment and unemployment in December. Compared to the summer months, the top line numbers were good, with unemployment falling three-tenths of one percent to 7.6% (U.S. rate is 8.5%).

Nonfarm jobs were up 6,500, which is a pretty good number (we need to average 8,000 new jobs a month to get back to full employment in three years). Service-sector job growth in December was atrocious; the sector added just 300 jobs. Most of the month’s job growth was in durable goods, with manufacturing adding 2,600 jobs, construction adding 3,000 and mining adding another 600.

Those 3,000 construction jobs don't represent a sudden resurgence of the construction industry. As most of you are happily aware, December was quite warm; this meant construction activity in the month was above historical averages which shows up as job growth in the final numbers. The actual trend in construction employment is at best no or very slow growth.

The bottom line is that in the last 12 months, Pennsylvania added 59,200 jobs. That's fewer jobs than were added from December 2009 to December 2010 (63,900). The primary reason Pennsylvania added fewer jobs in 2011 than it did in 2010 is the loss of 19,800 jobs in the public sector.

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