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The vast majority of American households’ income comes from what workers receive in their paychecks – which is why wages are so important. Unfortunately, wages for most workers grew exceptionally slowly between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity—which essentially measures the economy’s potential for providing rising living standards for all—rising 64 percent. In other words, most Americans, even those with college degrees, have only been treading water—despite working more productively (and being better educated) than ever.

EARN groups provide key research and policy analysis describing how these trends have played out at the state and local levels, and what policymakers can do about it.

Publications

Time Is Money, Unless You’re Salaried

Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries has launched a long overdue process to establish an updated salary threshold and other rules that determine who is exempt from basic legal protections. Families across the state struggle to achieve and maintain economic stability in the face of slow wage growth and skyrocketing costs for housing, health care, childcare, and other necessities. Because Washington’s threshold is so woefully out-of-date standards, almost any salaried employee can now be required to work more than 40 hours per week with no additional pay and can also be denied access to paid sick leave. Updating our state standards would benefit up to half a million individual employees and their families, restoring Washington to a position of national leadership in protecting the health and well-being of its people and communities.

State of Working Philadelphia 2018

Each Labor Day the Keystone Research Center releases an annual checkup on the health of the Pennsylvania labor market, “The State of Working Pennsylvania.” (https://www.keystoneresearch.org/SWP2018). The 2018 edition focused on state-level data, mostly available through June 2018. This addendum to that report focuses on 2017 data released last month by the Census Bureau on incomes and poverty for Philadelphia. We complement the Census data with statistics on employment and unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide a comprehensive assessment of the performance of the Philadelphia economy since 2005. We start with the year 2005 as that is the first year in which data at the county level are available from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Growing Jobs, Stagnant Wages, Increasing Inequality and Rising Prices

By many measures, Washington’s economy has soared since the Great Recession. The state has added over 400,000 jobs since 2008 – more than making up for previous losses – and average hourly wages have climbed 13 percent after adjusting for inflation. However, those rosy numbers mask the fact that sluggish wage growth, increasing inequality and rising prices are leaving many Washington residents struggling.

State of Rural West Virginia

West Virginia’s population is increasingly living in urban areas, with those urban areas experiencing all the state’s job growth in the past quarter century, leaving rural West Virginia behind in many key areas, according to a new West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy?report.

The report,?State of Rural West Virginia, shows rural West Virginians primarily have poorer health, lower educational attainment levels, lower wages, are older and have fewer job opportunities outside of industrial and extractive industries, underscoring the contrast between the state’s rural and urban areas.

Rural West Virginia has been plagued with job losses from 2007 – 2016, losing more than 21,000 jobs, or eight percent, highlighting the uneven balance of West Virginia’s weak economic recovery.