Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment

Issues ››› Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
  • Fox’s Legendary Hypocrisy Is On Full Display With Today’s Underwhelming GDP Report

    Meager Growth Under Obama Meant We Were “Sliding Toward Recession”; For Trump, Fox Predicts A “Bounce Back”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The latest report from the Commerce Department found American economic growth in the first quarter of 2017 fell just short of most economists’ expectations. A virtually identical report one year ago was met with a chorus of outrage and hyperbole from the professional antagonists at Fox News, but their doomsaying has mellowed completely with President Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office.

    On April 28, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a report detailing the rate of change in real gross domestic product (GDP) during the first quarter of the year. The report showed GDP had increased just 0.7 percent during the time frame, which was both below expectations and the “weakest growth in three years.” According to The New York Times, the indicator “upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017,” while The Washington Post added that underwhelming economic performance “highlights the challenge this administration … will face trying to meet its target rate of 3 percent economic growth.” During a segment on CNN’s New Day, chief business correspondent Christine Romans noted that “the main culprit” holding back economic growth is “some nervousness among consumers,” whose spending accounts for more than half of the economy:

    At Fox News, however, the GDP report was met with muted reactions and renewed criticism of the supposedly weak economy Trump inherited from President Obama. Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted at the outset of the April 28 edition of Varney & Co., that the report was “very, very weak” before predicting “the Left [will blame] President Trump” for sluggish first-quarter growth while guest John Lonski surmised that the economy would “bounce back” in the second quarter of the year. Later in the program, after a guest complained about the economy settling into a cycle of slow growth, Fox Business anchor Ashley Webster pleaded, “It’s just the first three months, give it time,” before predicting higher rates of growth over the next three months stemming from deregulation. Fox Business contributor Elizabeth MacDonald added that “this is an overhang … of the Obama years” while complaining that “this is what the president has inherited.” From Varney & Co.:

    The measured response from Fox’s cast of characters is a far cry from how they responded to a virtually identical GDP report published by the BEA on April 28, 2016. Varney falsely characterized first-quarter GDP growth of last year -- which at 0.5 percent also missed expectations before being upwardly revised -- as proof that the economy was “sliding toward recession” and ignored other indicators showing the economy was improving. One day later, Varney continued lambasting Obama during an appearance on Fox & Friends in which he pushed the unsubstantiated claim that the post-recession recovery was a historic failure.

    This is not the first time a Fox personality has backtracked on mischaracterizations of the economy in order to hype or defend the Trump administration. The network has completely reversed its tone toward the monthly jobs reports since Trump took office, giving him credit for jobs he didn’t create, fawning over job creation that had become routine under Obama, and heaping praise on economic indicators identical to those they had once excoriated.

  • New Study Debunks Right-Wing Media Myth That Trump's Deregulation Will Restore Coal Communities

    Columbia University Report Outlines Market Forces Killing The Coal Industry

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    A new Columbia University report adds to a wealth of research disproving the right-wing media myth that President Donald Trump can bring back coal jobs and revitalize coal communities by simply rolling back environmental protections enacted by previous administrations.

    Conservative media outlets, political commentators, and Trump himself have repeatedly argued that undoing Obama-era environmental protections would reverse the decades-long decline in coal mining employment. But a new in-depth analysis published by researchers at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy throws cold water on this notion, concluding, “President Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will not materially improve economic conditions in America’s coal communities.”

    The report goes into great detail about the factors behind coal’s decline. It finds that the vast majority of the decrease in coal consumption was due to market factors unrelated to federal regulations and that it is “highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.” From the April 2017 report (emphasis added):

    We found that 49 percent of the decline in domestic US coal consumption was due to the drop in natural gas prices, 26 percent was due to lower than expected electricity demand, and 18 percent was due to growth in renewable energy. Environmental regulations contributed to the decline by accelerating coal power plant retirement, but these were a less significant factor. We also found that changes in the global coal market have played a far greater role in the decline of US production and employment than is generally understood. The recent collapse of Chinese coal demand, especially for metallurgical coal, depressed coal prices around the world and reduced the market for US exports. The decline in global coal prices was a particularly important factor in the recent wave of coal company bankruptcies and resulting threats to the healthcare and pension security of retired US coal miners and their dependents.

    Second, the paper examines the prospects for a recovery of US coal production and employment by modeling the impact of President Trump’s executive order and assessing the global coal market outlook. We found that successfully removing President Obama’s environmental regulations has the potential to mitigate the recent decline in US coal consumption, but that will only occur if natural gas prices start to rise. If they remain at current levels, domestic consumption will continue to decline, particularly if renewable energy costs fall faster than expected. We similarly see little prospect of a sustainable recovery in global coal demand growth and seaborne coal prices. Combining our domestic and international market outlook, we believe it is highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.

    The report’s conclusion that undoing environmental protections will have little impact on coal mining employment aligns with what numerous experts and nonideological media analysts have reported. The researchers also found that the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which regulates emissions from coal-fired power plants and which Trump singled out with a March 28 executive order that rolled back environmental regulations, “played no direct role in the reduction of US coal consumption and production experienced over the past few years.” (The Obama administration announced the final version of the CPP in August 2015 but the rules were never actually implemented.)

    The report does note that the decline in coal consumption could be mitigated “if natural gas prices increase going forward,” but the impact on jobs would not be as direct. As Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, explained to The New York Times, even if coal mines stay open, they are “using more mechanization” and “not hiring people. … So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.”

    Notably, the Columbia report offers policy recommendations “for how the federal government can support economic diversification in coal communities through infrastructure investment, abandoned mine land reclamation, tax credits, small business incubation, workforce training, and support for locally driven economic development initiatives.”

    But perhaps just as importantly, the researchers offer the following recommendation for lawmakers: “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the US coal sector—including the causes of coal’s decline and unlikeliness of its resurgence—rather than offer false hope that the glory days can be revived.”

  • Media Fall For And Reinforce Trump’s Spin On “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Multiple media outlets and figures uncritically reported on President Donald Trump’s planned executive order promoting policies that encourage the federal government to “buy American” and “hire American” wherever possible. These outlets and figures did not note that the executive order only calls for a review of current policy, and does not meaningfully change it, and some other outlets buried those crucial details in their reporting.

  • VIDEO: Media Can't Ignore The Voices of Activists

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    In a time of historic protests and activism against bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump and his administration, news outlets need to scrap the so-called “fair and balanced” panels of pundits and politicians speculating and judging protests from a studio.

    Since day one of the Trump administration, there have been organized efforts around the country to protest the president’s policies. These include the Women’s March On Washington in January which mobilized an estimated 3.6 to 4.6 million protestors around the world, demonstrations at airports across the U.S. a week later to protest banning and detaining Muslim travelers, the International Women’s Day Strike, the upcoming Tax Day March in April to pressure Trump to release his full tax returns, the People’s Climate March in the same month, and the Immigration March in May. Journalists can no longer ignore the activists, organizers and protestors who are taking to the streets and to town halls across the country to demand accountability and change.

    Media have dismissed the protests as spectacles, alleged that they are being staged, or falsely claimed that the protesters are paid to show up. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities.

    News outlets need to let activists tell their stories.

  • Wash. Post Uses Shabby Reporting To Justify Cutting Social Security Disability Insurance

    Experts Browbeat The Post’s Call For “Reform” Of SSDI At A Time Of “Unprecedented Inequality”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post’s editorial board used its paper’s own flawed profile of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients to justify the unsubstantiated claim that the program discourages people with disabilities from working and therefore “needs reform” in the form of increased restrictions and benefit cuts.

    On March 30, the Post ran a profile of a struggling low-income family as a proxy for millions of Americans who are dependent on SSDI that bordered on poverty shaming. The article misleadingly characterized SSDI recipients and the social safety net in ways that echoed myths commonly peddled by right-wing media outlets.

    Then, on April 8, the Post‘s editorial board referred back to the paper’s portrayal of SSDI while misleadingly claiming that the program’s eligibility requirements create “every incentive to cease working,” and that those requirements are part of the reason so few beneficiaries ever return to the workforce. The editorial board bizarrely added that recipients would be incentivized to work if SSDI benefits could be scaled down gradually as workers with disabilities returned to the workforce. Yet, the Post makes no mention that SSDI already has a return to work trial period where recipients can attempt to rejoin the labor force without losing assistance. Even more peculiar, while it argued for unneeded reforms, by the editorial board’s own admission the program is not actually rife with wasteful spending and recipients are only eligible if their disability prevents them from working. From The Washington Post:

    Nor is the program’s growth the result of rampant fraud, as sometimes alleged; structural factors such as population aging explain much recent growth. Nevertheless, at a time of declining workforce participation, especially among so-called prime-age males (those between 25 and 54 years old), the nation’s long-term economic potential depends on making sure work pays for all those willing to work. And from that point of view, the Social Security disability program needs reform.

    In particular, SSDI’s rules require that applicants be unable to engage in any significant paying work, or “substantial gainful activity,” in the program’s argot. Would-be recipients thus have every incentive to cease working completely to qualify — and to avoid rehabilitation lest they lose cash benefits and that all-important health care. And, in fact, only a tiny percentage of SSDI beneficiaries return to the labor force once they exit. “The decision to apply, in many cases, is a decision to effectively abandon working altogether,” as [Washington Post reporter Terrence] McCoy wrote. “For the severely disabled, this choice is, in essence, made for them. But for others, it’s murkier. Aches accumulate. Years pile up. Job prospects diminish.” The typical SSDI recipient now is a middle-aged worker whose main ailment is musculoskeletal or psychological.

    The Post is overselling the notion that SSDI creates an incentive for people with disabilities to abstain from work -- and it is doing so while linking back to research on ailments of SSDI recipients that was published in 1995. In actuality, SSDI recipients are only eligible to receive benefits if the Social Security Administration agrees that their disability prevents them from working. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), which analyzed data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), eligibility requirements in the United States are already “among the strictest in the world” and program benefits “are less generous than most other countries’ disability benefit programs.” According to CAP, almost 80 percent of SSDI applicants are denied during the initial application and “thousands of applicants die” annually waiting to learn if they will receive assistance. Furthermore, CAP also found that disability recipients who are approved tend to skew older and had worked in physically demanding jobs before applying for benefits.

    An April 9 blog from Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) economist and co-founder Dean Baker browbeat the Post for complaining about people with disabilities not working when inequality is at an “unprecedented” level -- the paper’s tone deafness is all the more apparent at a time when the wealthiest Americans live a decade longer than their low-income counterparts. Baker continued by pointing out that the benefits from SSDI are far from lavish, averaging a mere $1,170 a month, which amounts to less than a full-time job paying the federal minimum wage.

    The editorial board closed its call for needlessly reforming SSDI by claiming that its aim is to “help people with disabilities retain the earnings and dignity that come from work,” an argument that mirrored rhetoric from the right-wing Heritage Foundation for a more “compassionate” policy of work incentives and dropping recipients after a set time on the program.

    The Post’s repeated mischaracterization of SSDI follows a long history of misinformation from mainstream outlets, which often publish error-riddled stories filled with anecdotal evidence portraying disability recipients as undeserving. These pieces sound as if they come from right-wing media, which have spent years attacking the program and its recipients.

  • Fox Business Host Allows Industry CEO To Continue Denying The Real Reason For Coal’s Decline 

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney allowed a coal mining company CEO who previously said President Donald Trump couldn’t bring back coal jobs to walk back those comments, while Varney himself pushed the myth that environmental protections are to blame for the loss of jobs in the coal industry.

    A March 27 article in The Guardian reported that Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, the largest privately owned coal company in the United States, acknowledged that technological advances and competition from renewable energies and natural gas are responsible for the coal industry’s decline. Murray warned that Trump should “temper” his expectations for a return of coal mining jobs because he “can’t bring them back.” Trump has repeatedly promised that he will reinvigorate the industry by rolling back regulations.

    A week after Murray spoke with The Guardian, Varney allowed the CEO to walk back his comments. On the April 3 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., Varney repeated Murray’s quote from the news report and asked, “Why can’t the president bring back coal mining jobs if he gets rid of these damaging climate restrictions?” Murray replied, “Well, he can. It’s the degree to which he brings them back. I was asked when I was quoted, ‘Can he bring them back to where they were?’” Murray added that Trump could bring back “at least half” of the 63,000 coal jobs that he said were lost due to environmental protections.

    Numerous experts have debunked the claim that Trump can bring back tens of thousands of coal jobs. As an energy economist at the University of Wyoming told The New York Times, even if coal mines stay open, they are “using more mechanization” and “not hiring people. … So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.”

    Murray’s comments come at a time when coal mining is vastly overshadowed by employment in the renewable energy sector. The Associated Press reported that “coal mining now accounts for fewer than 70,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.” And a recent analysis by the Sierra Club found that “only six states have more jobs in coal and gas than clean energy -- and the growth of clean energy suggests that won’t be the case for long.”

    A Media Matters review of Nexis transcripts found that over the years, Murray has been a frequent guest on Fox Business, where he has repeatedly pushed the lie that coal mining job losses were due solely to environmental regulations. On the rare occasions when Fox Business hosts asked Murray about the impact of technology or natural gas on the coal industry, Murray downplayed the significance of those factors or pivoted back to attacking environmental regulations.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of Fox Business from the last five years using Robert Murray and coal, Robert Murray and (automat! o technolog!), and Robert Murray and natural gas.

  • Right-Wing Media Commemorate Equal Pay Day By Recycling Misleading Attacks On Progressives

    Fox News Joins Chorus Accusing Elizabeth Warren Of Hypocrisy On Pay Equity

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Equal Pay Day, which fell on April 4, “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. Right-wing media outlets, which have long denied the very existence of a gender pay gap, used the annual commemoration as an excuse to attack progressives as hypocrites on the need for pay equity, airing recycled and debunked talking points previously used against President Barack Obama and former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    On April 4, the right-wing Washington Free Beacon commemorated Equal Pay Day by misleadingly claiming that the “gender pay gap” experienced by female staffers working for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is “nearly 10 percent wider than the national average,” according to its own review of Senate salary data. The article claimed that “median annual earnings” for women working in Warren’s office for the entirety of 2016 were “more than $20,000 less than the median annual earnings for men” while “average salaries rather than median” showed a roughly “31 percent” pay gap. The article slammed Warren for paying five men larger salaries than that of her highest-paid woman staffer and concluded by noting several prominent Democratic politicians who supposedly “pay women less than men,” including Clinton and Obama:

    Warren is far from the only politician who pays women less than men.

    Most notable on the list is failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who paid women less than men first as a senator, then as secretary of state, and as a presidential candidate. Her campaign viewed her tendency to pay women less than men as a campaign vulnerability.

    Former President Barack Obama regularly spoke out about the gender pay gap, but women working at the White House were paid less than men.

    The Free Beacon’s misleading analysis of Warren was picked up by other right-wing outlets, including The Daily Caller and The Washington Times. The April 4 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight also featured the report during a segment wherein the host mocked Warren as “a fake Native American” and Townhall editor Katie Pavlich claimed the news proved Warren “is not a champion for women”:

    The attacks right-wing media used against Warren rely on the exact same debunked “analysis” they have used to smear progressive elected officials on equal pay before: On February 23, 2015, the Free Beacon claimed that Hillary Clinton, as senator, paid female staffers “72 cents for each dollar paid to men” in a piece titled “Hillary Clinton’s War On Women.” Fox host Sean Hannity echoed the claim, saying the article proved Clinton “paid female staffers a lot less than men.” Fox host Greg Gutfeld hyped a similarly deceptive claim in 2012, saying that women who work in the Obama White House generally earn less than men. In reality, PolitiFact debunked the Free Beacon/Hannity claim, rating it as “Mostly False” and noting that Hannity’s analysis “ignores critical facts.” Gutfeld was proven wrong as well: American Prospect columnist Paul Waldman reported that the data on Obama staff pay indicated that “men, on average, are occupying higher-paying jobs in the White House ... not that women are being paid less for doing the same job.” (At no point in this years-long charade have right-wing media acknowledged the systemic problem of men being overrepresented in leadership roles.)

    As has always been the case, Fox News and other right-wing outlets seem to care about the pay gap women face in the workplace only when it’s politically advantageous to do so. When they aren’t cherry-picking statistics to malign progressives, Fox personalities frequently dismiss pay inequality as “an absolute myth” and attribute it “to women’s choices” rather than discrimination. Yet, the real myth is that the pay gap is caused by women choosing lower-paying jobs. As CNN analyst Christine Romans explained on the April 4 edition of New Day, women face a pay gap because “even in the same job categories, men make more”:

    Despite continued efforts to make pay in the United States more equitable, the gender pay gap persists. According to the Center for American Progress, women still earn only 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and the pay gap is even wider for women of color. April 4 marked the day when working women finally caught up to the earnings men accrued in 2016, but all Fox and the right-wing chorus wanted to do to commemorate the occasion was push tired and recycled myths.

  • Trump's Manufacturing Policy Could Destroy Many Times More Jobs Than Were "Saved" At Carrier

    Research Shows Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts Would Undermine Successful Manufacturing Jobs Programs

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the weeks after Election Day, media outlets tirelessly amplified President Donald Trump’s misleading claim that he personally saved hundreds of jobs at a facility operated by Indiana-based appliance manufacturer Carrier. Will those outlets devote the same zeal to covering widespread program cuts outlined in Trump’s budget proposal that would undermine a public-private partnership supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the United States?

    Mainstream and conservative media outlets alike heaped praise on Trump for his supposed role in brokering a deal to keep Carrier jobs in the U.S., and national news spent months hyping Trump’s mythical dealmaking skills after he claimed credit for other companies investing in the American economy. In fact, a Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable news coverage of the economy found that Trump’s misleading boasts about brokering deals to create a handful of American jobs dominated economic news coverage in the last three months of 2016.

    On March 16, the Trump administration produced a budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year that attempts to offset an unnecessary $54 billion increase in military spending by drastically reducing all remaining nondefense discretionary expenditures.

    Among the programs set to lose funding is the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) -- a public-private program dedicated to improving manufacturing efficiency. Washington Post reporter Danielle Paquette described the MEP as “a modest operation that exists solely to help small and medium-size companies create and maintain good-paying American manufacturing jobs” and noted that it has “long enjoyed bipartisan support.” And recent analyses of the program from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and the Center for American Progress (CAP) unveiled the extent to which cutting the MEP could imperil American workers.

    According to a March 3 report from Upjohn, the MEP directly supports about 86,000 jobs nationwide, including 2,100 in Indiana. The total jobs number stretches to roughly 142,000 if you account for positions indirectly supported by MEP grants. Most importantly, more than 27,000 of the jobs directly and indirectly supported by the MEP are in the manufacturing sector -- an industry Trump has claimed his policies would help revitalize.

    A March 27 analysis of the Upjohn report by CAP's associate director for economic policy, Brendan Duke, revealed that roughly half of the more than 80,000 jobs directly supported by the MEP could be in jeopardy if companies lose access to federal grant money in the wake of Trump’s budget cuts.** More than 11,000 of those jobs would be lost in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- manufacturing-heavy swing states that went for Trump in 2016:

    As CAP demonstrates, the number of jobs that could be lost thanks to Trump is many times more than the 800 he “saved” in the vaunted Carrier deal last December. Following the logic in CAP’s analysis, the loss of MEP funding could cost the state of Indiana roughly 1,000 jobs -- meaning the federal budget cut would cost the state at least as many jobs as it saved through a generous taxpayer-funded kickback to the appliance manufacturer:

    Professional economists from across the political spectrum have slammed Trump’s economic policy vision for months and warned that his policies are more likely to harm the job market than revitalize it. Some outlets seem to have caught on to the fact that the president’s boasts about his role in making deals and creating jobs cannot be taken seriously. But their willingness to tackle the disastrous consequences of the Trump administration’s policy priorities is still developing.

    **The Center for American Progress' analysis focuses only on the jobs directly supported by the MEP, according to the Upjohn Institute report, and does not include 4,161 jobs affected by MEP grants in Puerto Rico.