National Poverty Rates Hits 15.1%, Highest Level Since 1993

As the recession took its toll last year, more Americans fell into poverty, saw their incomes decline and joined the ranks of the uninsured, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau released the results of its annual Current Population Survey today in a new report — the first to include a full year of data from the Great Recession. At the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, we have an analysis of the data, including a look at some state-level details.

During 2010, the national poverty rate increased to 15.1%, the highest level since 1993, with a record-breaking 46.2 million American adults and children living in poverty. Median household income also declined, and the number of individuals without health insurance increased again, now approaching 50 million.

A Look at Today's Census Report

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The Census Bureau released data this morning on poverty, incomes, and health coverage in 2010. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has created some charts to show how the new figures look in historical context.

Poverty has been rising for much of the last decade

The Center has a lot more charts interpretting the Census data here.

And check back with us later in the week for more details on what the new Census data mean for Pennsylvania.

Six Months after the End of adultBasic

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It has already been six months since Pennsylvania pulled the plug on the adultBasic health insurance program for 37,588 people. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center recently took a look at what happened to the Pennsylvanians who lost their adultBasic coverage on the first of March. While some found health insurance elsewhere, many have simply fallen through the cracks.

Third and State This Week: The Economy, Obama Jobs Plan and Education Cuts

This week, we blogged about the President's jobs plan, education funding cuts, "network" unionism, the August jobs report and more.


  • On jobs and the economy, Mark Price shared his statement and some analysis from national experts on President Obama's jobs speech. Mark also blogged about the August jobs report and responded to a Patriot-News columnist's misguided take on the unemployed.
  • On the workplace, Stephen Herzenberg highlighted a recent op-ed he co-wrote with Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Rick Bloomingdale on the foreign student incident at Hershey and proposed one solution: forming a union among workers that cuts across Hershey's entire supply chain.
  • On education funding, Chris Lilienthal wrote about a recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tracking how much states cut per-student, inflation adjusted K-12 spending in the new fiscal year.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

How About A Sitdown Strike Across Hershey’s Supply Chain?

By now most of you have heard about the recent Hershey incident in which foreign students, having paid for the privilege of participating in a “cultural exchange” visit to the United States, found themselves packaging the candy company’s chocolate for about $8 per hour (not counting the upfront fee for the program and before you subtract the living costs taken out of the students’ paychecks). 

As Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and I pointed out in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed last week, the implications of this incident go far beyond the advantage taken of the 400 students. It’s a case that demonstrates the irresistible urge of global corporations to fragment workers in their production chains so that the most vulnerable can be paid very low wages. Hershey, after all, has a stronger motivation than most corporations to resist this impulse: it’s in a capital-intensive industry, it has a cherished consumer brand placed at risk by the relentless pursuit of low wages, and the company is held in trust on behalf of a school for underprivileged children. The Hershey case demonstrates the need for constraints on companies’ freedom to pursue low-wage strategies.

Obama Jobs Plan a Step Toward Boosting Economy

Updated: Friday, September 9, 2011, 11:15 a.m.

President Obama delivered a much anticipated address on jobs and the economy before a joint session of Congress this evening. I put out the following media statement in response:

There is no question that we need a jobs policy to meet the vast challenges our economy faces today. The President has put forth some good ideas, including an extension of unemployment benefits that will help families in rural and urban communities where jobless rates are particularly high. This plan should be the start of a broader discussion about how we can invest in people and local communities across the nation to repair our broken economy. Doing nothing is not an option.

Update: If you're looking for some more analysis on the President's plan, check out these:

The team at the Economic Policy Institute has a quartet of blog posts, including Heidi Shierholz's look at the jobs gap, John Irons' analysis of the jobs impact of the President's plan, Ross Eisenbrey's take that the plan is mostly on the mark, and Lawrence Mishel's analysis of how effective the plan is.

Dean Baker writes that it is encouraging to hear the President include work-sharing in his jobs agenda.

Over at The New York Times, Paul Krugman writes that the plan is significantly bolder and better than he expected.

Jared Bernstein shares some number crunching on the plan's impact on GDP and jobs.

Finally, the folks at Macroeconomic Advisers LLC blog that the plan will be a significant boost to GDP and employment.

School’s Open but There’s Less Funding for Kids

Kids are back in school across Pennsylvania and the nation, but many of them are likely seeing the fallout from education funding cuts.

Pennsylvania ranked among the top 10 states to cut school funding this year, according to a recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Center found that 21 of 24 states for which data are available (including Pennsylvania) are providing less funding per student to elementary and high schools than last year (after adjusting for inflation). These states account for about two-thirds of the nation’s school-age population.

Pennsylvania ranked sixth among the 24 states, with an 8.8% cut in per-student, inflation adjusted spending. Only Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, California and Ohio cut school funding more.

The Labor Market is a Buyer’s Market

Do you know many unemployed people these days who are turning down jobs while holding out for a better offer?

Me neither.

Over one in four Pennsylvania workers — and nearly one in three U.S. workers — have had less paid work than they wanted during the last 12 months. For every job opening in Pennsylvania, there are approximately eight workers who want more paid work — four of them are unemployed and four are underemployed.

Those are pretty sobering statistics.

Yet this Labor Day, readers of the Patriot-News were treated to a very different set of statistics by columnist Anne McGraw Reeves. Citing a temporary help agency, she wrote that 52% of surveyed employers "reported difficulty filling jobs."

How can this be?

Sizing Up the August Jobs Picture

Welcome back from your Labor Day Holiday!

While we were releasing the State of Working Pennsylvania 2011 last week, the good people at the U.S. Department of Labor released their latest nationwide data on the August employment picture. Here is a run down of the main points from Washington's leading labor economists.

Heidi Shierholz notes troubling trends in hours of work:

"The length of the average workweek declined in August to 34.2 hours. Average hours have dropped in the last three months, have seen no net growth over the last year, and have thus far made up just over half of what they lost in the first 18 months of the downturn (the low point was 33.7 in June 2009). One thing this underscores is that the lack of hiring right now primarily indicates a lack of demand, and not an inability by businesses to find the right workers or because of uncertainty or concern about regulatory burdens. If the lack of hiring was occurring for some reason other than a lack of demand, we would see businesses strongly ramping up the hours of the workers they have. As it is, there remains substantial room to meet unmet demand by increasing hours of existing workers; if private-sector employers were to simply restore the hours of their workers back to pre-recession levels, that would be equivalent to adding over 1.2 million jobs at current average hours."

Third and State This Week: Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission, State of Working PA and Gas Drilling's Impacton PA Economy

This week, we blogged about the latest State of Working Pennsylvania report and creating a "moral economy," a forum for citizens to weigh in on Marcellus Shale drilling, and a new study on the impact of the Marcellus Shale on Pennsylvania's economy.


  • Writing about the Keystone Research Center's State of Working PA report, Stephen Herzenberg outlined the need for policies to foster a "moral economy" that works better economically and supports rather than undercuts American values.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Sharon Ward examined a new report from the Penn State Marcellus Shale Education & Training Center showing that the Marcellus Shale is creating jobs and increased income, but at a much more modest level than industry studies predicted.
  • Also on the Marcellus Shale, Chris Lilienthal blogged about a new commission giving citizens an opportunity to weigh in on the impact of shale drilling.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

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