ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY: LABOR MARKET/WAGES/UI


Many Texans are poor, not because they don't work, but because their work pays too little to raise a family out of poverty. To ensure economic prosperity, Texas public policy must support work, make work pay, and help families build their assets. The most important thing the state can do to enhance economic opportunity is to invest in public education—from early childhood education all the way through higher education.

Recent Labor Market/Wages/UI Publications

Update on Unemployment Assistance for Hurricane Evacuees (12/1/2005)
More than 300,000 displaced Louisiana workers (62,000 of whom are living in Texas) have been collecting jobless benefits as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but as of November 27, the rules have changed. Now, many displaced workers living in Texas may qualify for additional assistance, including up to two extra weeks of benefits. But in order to continue collecting assistance, these workers must report their job search efforts to the Louisiana Department of Labor on a weekly basis, ending the emergency exemption previously authorized by Governor Kathleen Blanco.

President Suspends Wage Laws for Gulf Coast Workers (10/7/2005)
Last month, the President suspended the Davis-Bacon Act for federally contracted cleanup and reconstruction projects in counties and parishes directly affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Davis-Bacon Actâ€"a federal law since 1931â€"requires federal construction contractors to pay the prevailing hourly wage for each occupation in a geographic area. The prevailing hourly wage for construction occupations averages $9.50 per hour in the affected areas of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. However, the President’s repeal of Davis-Bacon enables federal contractors to hire minimum-wage workers to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

What's the Latest on the Texas Economy? (09/2/2005)
This report tells a mixed story. Over the past several months, the Texas unemployment rate has improved considerably â€" in July matching the national average of 5.0%. However, rising long-term unemployment and the declining labor force participation rate indicate underlying problems with the Texas labor market. More importantly, Texas workers have been experiencing wage and income stagnation over the past two decades, limiting the pace of economic growth and the ability of those individuals at or near the poverty level to work their way out of poverty. In addition, educational attainment continues to be a major factor in determining income. Texas’ high share of workers with less than a college education keeps overall wages lower than the national average.

Who Needs a Raise More: Tom DeLay or a Bus Boy?: Austin American-Statesman (07/6/2005)
Last week, the U.S. House gave itself a pay raise for the seventh time in as many years. But the House leadership refused to acknowledge that $3,100 more a year can be called a pay raiseâ€"they called it “an adjustment” in earnings. Since 1998, the House has raised its annual member salary by $31,600â€"a 23.7 percent cumulative increase to $165,200 per year. During these same years, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 an hourâ€"the second longest period of stagnation since its inception in 1938.

HB 2421: Job Creation and Closing the Skills Gap (05/27/2005)
HB 2421 represents one of the most significant pieces of legislation concerning economic development considered by the 79th Legislature. We urge the conferees to generate enough job training dollars to move the Texas economy forward and improve the state’s business climate. A highly skilled workforce drives a company’s relocation or expansion more than a one-time cash grant.

Adequate Funding for Workforce Development on the Line (05/27/2005)
The Senate floor amendment to HB 2421 has flipped the tables, giving the lion’s share of a proposed employer investment assessment tax to the Enterprise Fund. Whereas the engrossed version of HB 2421 would quadruple training opportunities for Texas workers, the Senate amendment would slash Skills Development Fund allocations by 70%, and shortchange the needs of employers and workers trying to compete in the global marketplace.

House Skills Development Bill Quadruples Training Opportunities for Texas Workers (05/16/2005)
HB 2421 (Chavez) would create a larger and more stable source of funding for the Skills Development Fund (SDF)â€"Texas’ primary state-funded workforce development program. For the past several years, the Skills Development Fund, administered by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), has been hampered by relatively flat General Revenue funding at approximately $25 million per biennium. By dedicating a portion of unemployment insurance tax paid by employers, HB 2421 would generate $49.3 million for the Skills Development Fund for Fiscal Year 2007 grants. In contrast, SB 1096 would dedicate the vast majority of these unemployment insurance revenues to the Enterprise Fundâ€"a program that promotes job creation at 10 times the cost of the Skills Development Fund and mostly subsidizes projects in metropolitan areas.

Who’s Funding Workforce Development? (04/6/2005)
Already overwhelmed by demand, the Skills Development Fundâ€"Texas’ most successful state-funded workforce training programâ€"is slated for massive cuts. The Senate is proposing to cut General Revenue appropriations for the Skills Development Fund by nearly 60%, or $14.5 million, compared to the current biennium. As a result, 9,000 fewer workers per year would receive customized job training. The Texas Enterprise Fund, a program designed to lure employers to Texas, compounds the funding crisis by using scarce Skills Development dollars as an incentive bonus for training costs that should be financed either by companies that are new to Texas or by the Enterprise Fund itself.

HB 1938: Relating to the Award of a Grant and Reporting Requirements Under the Texas Enterprise Fund (03/22/2005)
Good afternoon, Chair Ritter and the Committee. My name is Don Baylor with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Texans place great value in openness and getting the "biggest bang for our buck." Our state's sunshine and sunset provisions demonstrate Texas' commitment to these principles. In this spirit, the public and the Legislature need better information to evaluate the Enterprise Fund's effectiveness in delivering upon its stated goal: enhancing the state's capacity to deliver high quality jobs to Texas.

Getting the Facts Straight: Texas & the Minimum Wage (02/24/2005)
Until September 2001, the Texas minimum wage was $3.35 per hour. At that time, the 77th Legislature effectively raised the state minimum by eliminating a statutory dollar figure and adopting the federal minimum wage level ($5.15 per hour) by reference. The federal minimum wage is decided by Congress and the President and was last raised in 1997 to $5.15 per hour, its current level.

Enterprise Fund: "High Road or Low Road" (02/2/2005)
This policy page provides an analysis of the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), including its administrative processes and program results. This page also examines similar incentive programs and provides recommendations for an Enterprise Fund that promotes a "high-road" economic development program.

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