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How much would it cost consumers to give farmworkers a significant raise? A 40% increase in pay would cost just $25 per household

Economic Policy Institute offers context for wage increases for farmworkers:

How much would it cost consumers to give farmworkers a significant raise? A 40% increase in pay would cost just $25 per household

The increased media coverage of the plight of the more than 2 million farmworkers who pick and help produce our food—and whom the Trump administration has deemed to be “essential” workers for the U.S. economy and infrastructure during the coronavirus pandemic—has highlighted the difficult and often dangerous conditions farmworkers face on the job, as well as their central importance to U.S. food supply chains. For example, photographs and videos of farmworkers picking crops under the smoke- and fire-filled skies of California have been widely shared across the internet, and some data suggest that the number of farmworkers who have tested positive for COVID-19 is rivaled only by meat-processing workers. In addition, around half of farmworkers are unauthorized immigrants and 10% are temporary migrant workers with “nonimmigrant” H-2A visas; those farmworkers have limited labor rights in practice and are vulnerable to wage theft and other abuses due to their immigration status.

Despite the key role they play and the challenges they face, farmworkers are some of the lowest-paid workers in the entire U.S. labor market. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it would not collect the data on farmworker earnings that are used to determine minimum wages for H-2A workers, which could further reduce farmworker earnings.

This raises the question: How much would it cost to give farmworkers a significant raise in pay, even if it was paid for entirely by consumers? The answer is, not that much. About the price of a couple of 12-packs of beer, a large pizza, or a nice bottle of wine.

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Daylight spending more than you have

by David Zetland

Daylight spending more than you have

Some countries are changing their clocks this week while others will do so next week.

These changes are labeled “daylight saving” (DS) even though the number of daylight minutes stays the same. Marketing at its finest!

Indeed, there’s abundant evidence that this twice-annual ritual is useless or even harmful. As I’ve written before, it would be a triumph of global collective action to  get rid of DS and even better to move the entire planet to one time (UTC) as a means of reducing numerous problems with time zones, at a cost of losing some anachronisms (“lunch at 12 noon” as opposed to “lunch at midday”).

But let’s look into the psychology and goals of DS.

First, are you saving an hour by setting the clock forward in the Spring and then spending that hour when you set it back in the Fall, OR are you borrowing an hour in the Fall and repaying it in the Spring? In either case, there’s zero interest paid or received in this +1 – 1 = 0 or -1 + 1 = 0 calculation. So that’s why the concept is a lie.

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Jobless claims: a very positive reversal

 

This week’s new jobless claims report not only reversed last week’s increase but declined below 800,000 for the first time on an *un*revised basis. I say that because revisions from two weeks ago now have that week as the lowest since the pandemic struck.  [NOTE: California has restarted reporting its claims, and has also reported for the past two weeks, and is the likely cause of the big revisions – generally downward, or positive.]

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, new jobless claims declined by 73,125 to 756,617. This would be a new low, except two weeks ago was revised down to 731,249. After seasonal adjustment (which is far less important than usual at this time), claims declined by 55,000 to 787,000. This would be a new low as well, except two weeks ago was revised down to 767,000. The 4-week moving average also decreased by 21,500 to 811,250, a new pandemic low:

 

Here is a close-up of the last three months since the end of July highlighting the overall slow progress in initial claims since then:

 

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September housing construction: another very positive month

by New Deal democrat

September housing construction: another very positive month

Yesterday September housing permits and starts were reported. Permits made yet another 10+ year high. This bodes very well for the economy in 2021, if the pandemic can be contained.

Sorry about the delay. Seeking Alpha didn’t get around to publishing it until this morning. Here’s the link.

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The Post Office in a Decent Society

Mark Jamison’s commentary on USPO matters have been featured at Angry Bear Blog a number of times. A retired postmaster, Mark Jamison serves as an advisor, resident guru, and a regular contributor to Save the Post Office. Mark’s previous posts concerning the USPO can be found here at “Save The Post Office” or by doing the search function at Angry Bear. Mark can also be contacted on USPO matters markijamison01@gmail.com

In looking at the results of the recent lawsuits against the Postal Service — eight of which have led to rulings banning changes in postal operations until after the election — it is tempting to make a bad sports analogy.  After all, going 0 for 8 in the courts lends itself to comparisons with the futility we often associate with the worst teams and players. But to do so trivializes matters of the gravest civic importance.

The lawsuits have been initiated to preserve our right to vote and do so in a way that preserves our health and safety during a pandemic. They have also served to highlight the politicization of a national asset and institution, one whose mission embodies the concept of one nation through the provision of universal service.

The Postal Service has repeatedly lost in court because there is no argument that can defend the clownish tenure of Louis DeJoy and the overt politicization of an infrastructure that should be totally nonpolitical by Robert Duncan and the other members of the Postal Board of Governors.

Duncan continues to serve as a director of a super PAC dedicated to electing Republican candidates to the Senate. Whatever insights or advantages Duncan’s experience might bring to the operations of the Postal Service, they are more than offset by his utter lack of respect for the institution. His continued partisan position during a contentious election in which the Postal Service is playing an essential role is inexcusable. A person with any sense of civic duty or public propriety would have stepped aside long ago.

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The Guardians of the Financial Galaxy

by Joseph Joyce

The Guardians of the Financial Galaxy

The rapid expansion of the pandemic and the ensuing economic and financial collapses brought about responses by policymakers, including actions undertaken on an international basis. The Federal Reserve acted together with other central banks to ensure that an adequate supply of dollars was available to support dollar-based financing outside the U.S. Similarly, the IMF moved rapidly to provide financial support to its members. These national and international institutions constitute a “two tier” system in international finance that occupies the role of lender of last resort.

International cooperation has occurred before, and Michael Bordo of Rutgers University gives an account of these efforts in a new NBER working paper, “Monetary Policy Coordination an Global Financial Crises in Historical Perspective.” During the Bretton Woods era, central banks cooperated to sustain the fixed exchange rate system. In 1962, the U.S. established bilateral currency swaps with foreign central banks, which provided dollars to be used in support of their exchange rates.

The swaps continued in the 1970s after the termination of the Bretton Woods regime as policymakers sought to control the volatility of exchange rates. During the early and mid-1980s there were episodes of coordination of foreign exchange market intervention by central banks as governments in the advanced economies sought to stabilize the value of the dollar. But these occurred less frequently in the late 1980s as inflation fell in most of these countries and foreign exchange market intervention became less common.

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Let’s make a coronavirus deal?

Latest on the relief negotiations is here.  Short version, Pelosi and Mnuchin are still negotiating over a $1.9 trillion bill; McConnell is floating the idea of a $500 billion dollar bill, but it is far from clear he can or even wants to pass anything.

If Pelosi can get to a deal with Mnuchin, that’s great.  I still think that the House should pass a bill with or without sign off from Mnuchin and challenge Trump and Senate Republicans to pass it.

But I would add now that the House should consider passing a $500 billion bill and calling McConnell’s bluff.  Part of the impetus for hanging tough on a big bill was to limit the ability of Senate Republicans to sabotage a Biden presidency by withholding any further relief (which they would surely do).  But it looks increasingly likely that the Democrats will take the Senate and be able to pass their own bill in January.  Of course this is not guaranteed, but we need to play the probabilities.  If the polling holds up on the Senate, the main aim should be to get through the next 3 months without too much human suffering and economic damage.  $500 billion is not enough, but properly targeted it would be a lot better than nothing.  Passing an inadequate bill would not help the Republicans politically, and it might help the Democrats drive home how intransigent and destructive Republicans are being on coronavirus relief.

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Real retail sales continue (inexplicably) strong, still bode well for employment

Real retail sales continue (inexplicably) strong, still bode well for employment

 

This morning we got two important monthly September reports: industrial production and retail sales.

I have more to say about industrial production, and some general economic analysis about retail sales, which are pending at Seeking Alpha. I will post a link once that article goes up. UPDATE: Here’s the link: Link

For this blog, let’s focus on how real retail sales are likely to affect employment.

Just to start, here is are CPI adjusted retail sales. You can see that they have actually jumped once the Congressional stimulus kicked in, and have remained well ahead of pre-pandemic levels:

Figure 1

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A New Agenda for Postal Reform

Steve Hutkins of Save The Post Office critiques the cost-saving measures put into play to-date by PMG Louis DeJoy, the bypassing of the Postal Regulatory Commission which is supposed to review such plans, and the resulting unprecedented mail delays across the country. Steve proposes a plan to meet the Covid crisis impact on the Postal service head-on and also lays a foundation for future Postal Service incorporating new business and creating increased revenue.

In late June of this year, a few days after the new Postmaster General took office and in the middle of a pandemic, the Postal Service initiated a plan to eliminate 64 million work hours, the equivalent of 33,000 jobs. It was one of the largest cost-cutting plans (perhaps the largest) in the history of the Postal Service, and leadership wanted to get it done by the end of the fiscal year on September 30 — and without telling anyone about it, including the Postal Regulatory Commission, which is supposed to review all such plans.  Within weeks, unprecedented mail delays were occurring across the country, members of Congress were hearing about post offices closing early, and — given that half the country may vote by mail — even the integrity of the election was threatened.

The response was swift. People protested in the streets, Congress held hearings and issued a damning report, and a dozen lawsuits were filed, leading to injunction after injunction banning the operational changes. The leaders of the Postal Service were forced to step back. But those in charge are still in charge, and the Work Hour Reduction plan is just on pause, waiting until after the election.

In the meantime, there’s a crisis at the Postal Service. As of mid-September, almost 10,000 postal workers had tested positive for Covid-19, and over 52,000 had taken time off because they were sick or had to quarantine or care for family members. Those numbers are obviously much higher now, and they will get worse over the winter. Overtime hours, rather than being reduced, have gone way up, from about 11 percent of total workhours before the pandemic to 17 percent during the week of October 2 and 21 percent during the week of October 9.

The surge in packages caused by the pandemic is taxing the capacities of the system, resulting in continued delivery delays. First Class mail, which normally has an on-time delivery target of 96 percent and an average score of 92 percent, has been averaging about 85.6 percent since early July. When the quarterly results are posted next month, the fourth quarter of 2020 (July-Sept) may be the worst since the Postal Service first started reporting service performance data back in 2009.

The problems at the Postal Service, coupled with the President’s comments attacking the post office, have made many people afraid to cast their ballots by mail, even though it may be the only safe way for them to vote. Just a few days ago, the states suing the Postal Service in Pennsylvania v DeJoy decided the situation was so bad that they’ve asked the court to appoint former Inspector General and BOG member David C. Williams to serve as a special monitor to oversee operations until the election.

Hopefully in January a new administration will take office in Washington. How will it deal with this crisis, and how might it envision the future of the Postal Service?

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Weekly Indicators for October 12 – 16 at Seeking Alpha

by New Deal democrat

Weekly Indicators for October 12 – 16 at Seeking Alpha

 My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha.

What was most noteworthy about the past week is the confirmation that consumer spending, so far, has continued to hold up even as emergency Congressional assistance has been terminated for a month and a half.

As usual, clicking over and reading will bring you up to the moment on all of the important economic data, and will reward me with a penny or two in my pocket for putting the information together for you.

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