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Kelsey Moore, firstname.lastname@example.org
An analysis by economist Dean Baker
This was a generally solid jobs report, with the economy adding 253,000 jobs in April. However, there were sharp downward revisions to both the February and March jobs numbers, of 78,000 and 71,000, respectively. Taken together, the April figure is just 104,000 higher than the number previously reported for March.
The household survey also showed a very positive picture, with the overall unemployment rate edging down to 3.4 percent, a half-century low. The unemployment rate for Black workers fell to 4.7 percent, a new record low. The unemployment rate for Black men over age 20 also hit a record low of 4.5 percent. The previous low, before this recovery, for overall Black unemployment was 5.3 percent and for Black men it was 5.1 percent. The unemployment rate for Black teens fell to 12.9 percent, tying the record low hit in September.
Falling Hours Partially Offset Rising Employment
The average workweek was unchanged from March, but it is down from January and February. As a result, the index of aggregate hours has actually fallen at an annual rate of 0.7 percent since January. The January data were likely anomalous, but the index of aggregate hours has risen at less than a 0.9 percent annual rate since October; this is certainly a sustainable pace in the growth of labor demand.
Wage Growth Accelerates in April
There was a big jump in the average hourly earnings in April, which brought the annualized rate of growth over the last three months to 4.2 percent. This is still considerably slower than the 6.4 percent rate seen at the start of 2022, but likely somewhat faster than is consistent with the Fed’s 2.0 percent. This is somewhat faster growth than had been reported in March, but the prior months’ data has been revised upward.
It is worth noting that the wage growth being reported in the Average Hourly Earning (AHE) series is somewhat slower than the 4.8 percent rate reported in the Employment Cost Index. This gap could be the result of error in the data, but, if it is real, it would imply that the change in composition is reducing average wage growth. (The gap is still there if we do an apples to apples comparison looking at ECI for private sector wages.) That would mean we are seeing less employment in higher paying industries and occupations, and more employment in lower paying ones.
If that is the case and this shift is persisting, as opposed to being a peculiar development associated with reopening from the pandemic, as was the case in 2021, we would likely be more interested in the AHE data. This would indicate the increase in average hourly wages in the economy as a whole. Insofar as workers are moving into lower paying positions, these are presumably also lower productivity positions. If we are trying to determine the impact of wage growth on inflation, we want to see how wages increase relative to productivity. Since the latter is affected by changes in composition, we want a wage measure that is also affected by changes in composition.
Share of Unemployment Due to Voluntary Quits Fall Again
The share of unemployment due to voluntary quits falls to 13.8 percent, well below 2019 peaks and only slightly higher than 13.6 percent average for the year. By this measure, the labor market is still strong, but very much within the normal range. It had peaked at 15.8 percent in September.
Share of Short-Term Unemployed Falls Sharply
After rising in February and March, the share of the unemployed who have been out of work less than five weeks fell sharply in April, from 38.9 percent to 33.2 percent. While having more long-term unemployed would ordinarily be bad news, if we are seeing a recession coming on, there has to be an increase in short-term unemployment before there can be an increase in long-term unemployment. We are not seeing any evidence of this to date.
Wage Growth Continues to be Fastest for Lower Paid Workers
Throughout the recovery, lower paid workers have higher than average wage growth. That trend is continuing. The average hourly wage for production and non-supervisory workers overall, as well as in the low-paying leisure and hospitality sector, increased at a 4.7 percent annual rate over the last three months.
Employment to Population Ratio for Prime Age Workers Rise to Post Pandemic Highs
The overall prime age (25 to 54) employment to population ratio rose by 0.1 pp in April to 80.8 percent, 0.2 pp above pre-pandemic peak. For women, there was a 0.2 pp increase in April to 75.1 percent. This is 0.4 pp above its pre-pandemic peak. The rate for men fell by 0.1 pp to 86.4 percent, 0.4 pp below its pre-pandemic peak.
Professional and Technical Services and Health Care Lead Job Growth
The professional and technical services category added 45,000 jobs in April, while health care added 39,600 jobs. Job growth in restaurants slowed, with the sector adding just 24,800 jobs in the month. Hotels added just 200 jobs. Restaurant employment is still 0.7 percent below its pre-pandemic level. Hotel employment is down by 11.9 percent.
Manufacturing and Construction Add Jobs, After Small Losses in March
Construction (including residential construction) and manufacturing both added jobs in April, after small losses in March. Construction added 15,000 jobs, with residential construction adding 14,200. Manufacturing added 11,000. This is noteworthy, since these sectors are historically the most cyclical. The jobs numbers show no evidence of a recession, although the index of aggregate hours in both sectors is down from January.
Nursing Homes and Child Care Both Add Jobs
As low-paying sectors with difficult work, employment in both nursing homes and child care has lagged in the recovery. Nursing homes added 2,600 jobs in April, while child care facilities added 2,400. Employment in the two sectors is now down by 11.9 and 5.1 percent, respectively.
Labor Market Remains Solid, but Sustainable
The overall picture in the April employment report is incredibly positive. Unemployment is at a half-century low and Black unemployment is the lowest on record. We are still adding jobs, but the demand for labor as measured by the growth rate in hours worked is very much at a sustainable pace.
Wage growth may still be somewhat more rapid than is consistent with the Fed’s 2.0 percent target, but it is only modestly higher than what we saw in 2019, when inflation was at roughly 2.0 percent. If the Fed’s rate hikes don’t due too much damage going forward, and we don’t see serious fallout from the banking crisis, the labor market looks great.
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"An incredible embarrassment for the House Republican leadership," said one observer. "The morning McCarthy tries to turn the page, conservatives slap him and his leadership team in the face."
Progressive pundits on Tuesday derided what one commentator called a "complete shitshow" as a group of hard-right House Republicans voted with their Democratic colleagues in tanking GOP-backed bills to block regulation of gas stoves.
Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus joined Democrats in voting against a rule to advance four bills, two of them related to shielding gas stoves from federal regulation. Industry groups including the American Gas Association—which has known and tried to hide for decades that gas stoves can harm human health—support the legislation.
"Today, we took down the rule because we're frustrated at the way this place is operating," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told reporters, according to The Hill. "We took a stand in January to end the era of the imperial speakership. We're concerned that the fundamental commitments that allowed Kevin McCarthy to assume the speakership have been violated as a consequence of the debt limit deal."
\u201cWow. Kevin McCarthy\u2019s vote to protect gas stoves just FAILED on the House floor after some MAGA Republicans revolted to \u201cpunish\u201d McCarthy for not letting the US economy crash from the debt ceiling.\n\nComplete shitshow.\u201d— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen) 1686077994
While many progressives were infuriated by the deal struck between President Joe Biden and McCarthy (R-Calif.) to raise the nation's debt limit and avoid a first-ever default because the agreement helps protect wealth tax dodgers while slashing social safety net and climate spending, far-right Republicans also loathe the deal because they believe its belt-tightening measures are largely cosmetic.
"We warned them not to cut that deal without coming down and sit down and talk to us. So this is all about restoring a process that will fundamentally change things back to what was working," said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who also voted against advancing the gas stove bills.
In addition to Gaetz and Roy, the following Republicans voted to block the bills' advancement: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.) and Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Bob Good (Va.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (Mont.).
\u201cAn incredible embarrassment for the House Republican leadership. The morning McCarthy tries to turn the page, conservatives slap him and his leadership team in the face.\u201d— Jake Sherman (@Jake Sherman) 1686078829
"Haha. Republicans don't even have the votes to advance their own bill creating fake hysteria around banning gas stoves—which no one is trying to do," tweeted Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett. "The House GOP majority hard at work on the issues that matter most!"
"Today's ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children."
In a rebuke to Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature and its far-right governor and 2024 presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, a federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the enforcement of certain anti-trans rules recently adopted by state medical boards as well as specific provisions in Senate Bill 254, a new state law that criminalizes gender-affirming healthcare.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's 44-page ruling prevents Florida from applying its ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth to three children whose parents are plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit against the state.
Hinkle argued that Florida's moves to prohibit doctors from providing and minors from receiving so-called "puberty blockers" and other hormonal treatments constitute "purposeful discrimination" against transgender people and are likely to be found unconstitutional.
"Nothing could have motivated this remarkable intrusion into parental prerogatives other than opposition to transgender status itself," wrote Hinkle, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton. "The statute and the rules were an exercise in politics, not good medicine. This is a politically fraught area. There has long been, and still is, substantial bigotry directed at transgender individuals."
"Common experience confirms this, as does a Florida legislator's remarkable reference to transgender witnesses at a committee hearing as 'mutants' and 'demons,'" Hinkle continued, referring to disparaging comments made in April by state Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-29).
Hinkle added that the families who joined the emergency motion for a restraining order and preliminary injunction would suffer "irreparable harm" if their adolescents were denied access to "medically necessary" care consistent with the guidance of every major medical organization in the United States.
"My husband and I have been heartbroken and worried sick about not being able to care for our daughter in the way we know she needs," one of the plaintiffs, who is identified as Jane Doe and has a daughter named Susan, said in response to the ruling. "Today my entire family is breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we can now access the treatment that we know will keep Susan healthy and allow her to continue being the happy, confident child she has been."
The civil rights groups representing the plaintiffs said that "today's ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children."
"The court recognized the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive," the groups continued. "We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned."
As Politicoreported, "The preliminary injunction does not apply to other minors who may wish to obtain treatment, but the ruling suggests that a key part of the law itself could get knocked down as the legal challenge proceeds."
Florida's boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine adopted rules prohibiting doctors from offering gender-affirming care to trans youth in March. That ban was codified into state law when DeSantis signed S.B. 254 on May 17, one week before announcing his bid for the GOP's presidential nomination.
But S.B. 254 goes much further than formalizing the state medical boards' discriminatory rules. Among other things, it empowers Florida officials to take trans children away from their parents if they receive gender-affirming care. In addition to authorizing kidnapping, the law limits the ability of trans adults to start or continue receiving gender-affirming care and threatens to put doctors who violate the new restrictions behind bars.
S.B. 254 is one of several anti-trans laws that Florida Republicans and DeSantis have approved this year. Progressive advocacy groups issued a travel advisory for the state in April.
It is also one of 70 anti-trans laws enacted nationwide during the current legislative session. More than 525 bills attacking LGBTQ+ individuals, including over 220 that target trans people, have been introduced across the U.S. in recent months.
Before Hinkle issued his ruling on Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), one of the groups representing Florida parents, took the unprecedented step of declaring a "state of emergency" for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.
Regarding the narrowly focused ruling, HRC and the other groups said it indicates that "the plaintiff parents are likely to succeed in their claims that S.B. 254 and the boards of medicine rules unconstitutionally strip them of the right to make informed decisions about their children's medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of transgender youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare."
The groups added that "the challenge to the boards of medicine and S.B. 254 healthcare bans is likely to proceed quickly to trial."
"As scientists, we've been warning about the loss of Arctic summer sea ice for decades," said one researcher.
Scientists on Tuesday warned that the planet is rapidly headed toward the consequences of the climate crisis that they have been warning about for decades as researchers published a new study showing that a complete loss of Arctic sea ice in the summer months is now unavoidable.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in 2021 alarmed many with its warnings that if high or even intermediate planet-heating fossil fuel emissions continued, the Arctic would be ice-free by the 2040s—but its authors implored policymakers to focus on their finding that the region would retain its summer ice if decisive action was taken to limit an increase in global temperature rises to 2°C or less.
The new study published by researchers in South Korea, Germany, and Canada in Nature Communications found that even far-reaching action will no longer save the sea ice.
The scientists found that even in a low-emissions scenario, summer ice in the Arctic will be gone by the 2050s.
In an intermediate- or high-emissions scenario—which is far more likely, considering the United States, the largest historic source of fossil fuel emissions, has recently moved to approve massive projects such as the Willow oil drilling project and the Mountain Valley Pipeline—the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer months starting in the 2030s.
\u201cWhen I started reporting on climate change, the prediction was the Arctic could be sea-ice-free in summer by the 2070s. Now? By the 2030s. https://t.co/iSA52WS4YD\u201d— Elizabeth Kolbert (@Elizabeth Kolbert) 1686076003
"Unfortunately it has become too late to save Arctic summer sea ice," Dirk Notz, a climatologist at the University of Hamburg and co-author of the study, told The Guardian. "As scientists, we've been warning about the loss of Arctic summer sea ice for decades. This is now the first major component of the Earth system that we are going to lose because of global warming. People didn't listen to our warnings."
The researchers examined satellite data and climate models to analyze changes in the Arctic sea ice between 1979 and 2019 and found that previous models underestimated ice melting trends and that 90% of the loss of sea ice was the result of human-caused planetary heating.
Summer ice in the Arctic has receded by 13% each decade since 1979, they found.
The planet is already experiencing the effects of increased open water in the Arctic during the summer months, lead author Seung-Ki Min of Pohang University in South Korea noted, and policymakers must now prepare communities to adapt to those impacts, including extreme weather events.
"The most important impact for human society will be the increase in weather extremes that we are experiencing now, such as heatwaves, wildfires, and floods," Min toldThe Guardian. "We need to reduce CO2 emissions more ambitiously and also prepare to adapt to this faster Arctic warming and its impacts on human society and ecosystems."
The loss of summer sea ice would trigger a feedback loop known as "Arctic amplification," with the dark ocean absorbing more solar heat and causing additional planetary warming,
Arctic warming has also changed weather patterns in the northern hemisphere, such as storm formation and wind speeds—leading to extreme heat and rainfall.
"We need to prepare ourselves for a world with warmer Arctic very soon," Min toldCNN. "The earlier onset of an ice-free Arctic also implies that we will be experiencing extreme events faster than predicted."
Scientists last year said the extreme heat wave that struck Pakistan and India was made 30 times more likely due to planetary heating, and officials called the flooding that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands in Pakistan "climate dystopia at our doorstep."
Min said the impending loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic is a "tipping point" and a sign that the region is "seriously ill."
"We can regard the Arctic sea ice as the immune system of our body which protects our body from harmful things," Min toldCNN. "Without the protector, the Arctic's condition will go from bad to worse quickly."