Study Offers Post-Protest, Labor Day Look at Labor in PA
Fresh off this week's nationwide protest by fast-food workers calling for higher wages, and with Labor Day at hand, the Keystone Research Center is offering up a sobering look at Pennsylvania's economic recovery.
The group's new "State of Working Pennsylvania" report examines the factors contributing to slowing job growth and falling wages.
Mark Price is Keystone's labor economist and the study's co-author.
"What we find, in fact, is that middle class wages are down, and really for most workers in Pennsylvania wages have fallen in the past two years," he says. "And we think that's a direct consequence of the fact that unemployment remains so high, even though the recession ended long ago."
Price says job growth alone speaks volumes. Between 2010 and 2011, after the recession ended, Pennsylvania added 87,000 thousand new jobs, nearly equal to the number of jobs added in the two-and-a-half years since.
Price says another contributor to the equation is 45,000 job losses in the public sector in the past two-and-a-half years, including layoffs that have accompanied massive cuts to Pennsylvania's education system.
"To put that number sort of in context, that's like closing down 20 to 25 large factories," he points out. "And we've done that in a period when unemployment is up over 7 percent."
Price says what policymakers should do is support more investment in education, realizing its role in driving future growth. He also sees merit in the argument that minimum-wage workers need substantial raises.
"That certainly would be one way to put more money in people's pockets who are going to spend it and it will lead to more spending in the economy, creating more opportunity for businesses to expand," he explains.
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