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

Texas Jobs Snapshot for 2012 (12/5/2012)

"What we need are good jobs that pay us a living wage, provide health benefits, and allow us to build assets. And what businesses really need are customers. They hire when we are buying more. Our policies should encourage growth in good jobs that provide ALL of us the opportunity to be productive Texans." ­— Don Baylor, Senior Policy Analyst

Nearly 25,000 Texans to Lose Unemployment Insurance this Saturday (05/11/2012)

Texas is among eight other states getting hit by cuts to the federal unemployment insurance (UI) program on Saturday. Nearly 25,000 Texans will be cut off from federal UI tomorrow, leaving more Texas families without needed assistance while the economy recovers.

Statement: McCown Rates PolitiFact PANTS ON FIRE for UI Column (12/19/2011)

Center for Public Policy Priorities Executive Director F. Scott McCown made the following comments on the Austin American Statesman’s PolitiFact:

“In a post on December 15, and again in today’s newspaper, the Austin American Statesman’s PolitiFact labeled ‘Mostly False’ a point made by U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett that is supported by mainstream economists, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. To that we say, PANTS ON FIRE.

Statement on the American Jobs Act (10/4/2011)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor regarding the American Jobs Act:

“The American Jobs Act takes the right approach to creating jobs by using proven state-level reemployment efforts that get Americans back to work. More urgently, we also need to continue unemployment insurance benefits while Texans build job skills and intensify their search for work."

Census Jobs in Texas (02/26/2010)

The U.S. Census Bureau is hiring thousands of workers in Texas to help conduct the 2010 Census. More than 84,000 jobs will be created throughout the state during peak operations. This policy point tells you more. An accurate Census count has direct implications for every Texan. Many government funding decisions for services such as schools, housing, job training, roads, health care, and social services rely on Census data. Many communities are historically undercounted. Census workers can help ensure an accurate count for the 2010 Census.

The State of Working Texas 2009 (10/16/2009)

Although Texas was late to feel the effects of the national recession, economic indicators including the unemployment rate, underemployment, home foreclosure rates, and declining wages demonstrate that Texas is feeling the full impact of the economic downturn. For example, unemployment numbers released today show that our unemployment rate has climbed to 8.2 percent, with 44,700 Texas jobs lost in September. In addition, underemployment, household poverty, and labor force participation are headed in the wrong direction. The State of Working Texas 2009 annual report summarizes the employment situation in Texas and analyzes various indicators to highlight economic conditions for Texas workers.

Labor Day Update: Texas' Unemployment Insurance System (09/6/2009)

With the unemployment rate reaching 7.9 percent in July, coupled with a decrease in job creation, Texans face greater financial hardships, with many unable to pay their mortgages, afford health care and provide for their family’s basic needs. With unemployment on the rise, more Texans turn to the unemployment insurance (UI) system for financial relief to bridge the gap between jobs. Unfortunately, fewer than 35 percent of unemployed Texans became insured during the first quarter of 2009 " maintaining Texas’ ranking of 50th in the nation. Despite a low recipiency rate and a lower unemployment rate compared to the rest of the nation, the chronically insolvent UI Trust Fund ran dry after only six months of elevated claims. The Trust Fund now faces a gigantic deficit heading into 2010, billions of dollars in future debt service, and higher employer rates for years to come.

This Policy Page provides an overview of the Texas labor market and the state of the unemployment insurance system.

Congress Must Not Leave Any Wounded American Worker on the Economic Battlefield (09/3/2009)

If the First Infantry suffered 9 percent wounded, while the Second Infantry suffered “only” 7.9 percent, sending medicine to the First Infantry, but not the Second, would make no sense. Every wounded soldier deserves help. And, if the Second Infantry is bigger than the First, sending help to the Second would be even more important to the strength of the army. Yet, HR 3404 (McDermott) and S 1647 (Reed) propose to trigger an additional 13 weeks of critically important Emergency Unemployment Compensation for unemployed American workers based upon state unemployment rates. Unemployed workers in 28 states, including Texas, would not get help because of state rates below the trigger. This approach is unfair to American workers and counterproductive for the national economy. Congress should help workers in all states equally.

Strengthening the Texas Unemployment Insurance System (12/17/2008)

Yesterday, CPPP brought together state and national experts to discuss steps Texas could take to strengthen our unemployment insurance system. We were joined by Maurice Emsellem, the Policy Co-Director of the National Employment Law Project.

Presentations given at the event by CPPP's Don Baylor and Mr. Emsellem are now available online.

The State of Working Texas 2008 (12/17/2008)

As the national recession enters a second year, Texas is retreating from a three-year period of economic expansion and broadbased job growth. With jobs and profits harder to come by, Texas will need to respond to the immediate challenges posed by an impending global recession while crafting a more sustainable economic development strategy that equally considers the economic needs of companies and working families. The State of Working Texas 2008 is the latest in a series of joint projects of CPPP and the Economic Policy Institute, which published The State of Working America 2008/2009 earlier this year.

A Labor Day Review of Our Unemployment Insurance System (08/29/2008)
Texans are losing jobs and taking longer to find work in today’s tough economic environment, reminding us this Labor Day of the importance of Unemployment Insurance (UI). Unemployment checks enable Texans to buy groceries, pay rent, and meet basic needs, helping both Texas families and the Texas economy. Unfortunately, Texas state policies prevent four of every five jobless Texans from collecting UI. This paper recommends common-sense, affordable changes to shore up this vital public structure that protects Texans in tough economic times. Our recommendations include new definitions for eligibility, modern infrastructure to process claims, and a smarter, sustainable funding plan.

More Outreach Needed: More than 400,000 Texans Yet to Claim Stimulus Checks (08/8/2008)
More than 400,000 Texans may be eligible to receive economic stimulus checks but have not yet made a claim, according to the IRS. Employers, nonprofits, and state and local governments ought to consider helping locate eligible Texans and encourage them to file for stimulus payments. These rebates can still be claimed by filing a 2007 tax return before the October 15 deadline. Veterans, retirees, and others who typically are not required to file tax returns are at the highest risk of not receiving their share of the stimulus. As of late June, Texans are missing out on more than $124 million in unclaimed rebates.

Income Inequality on the Rise in Texas (04/9/2008)
The gap between the richest and poorest families, and between the richest and middle-income families grew substantially in Texas over the past two decades, according to a new study by the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute. Growing income inequality tears at the fabric of our economy, and shows our public policies are failing to promote shared prosperity. In fact, inequality has accelerated since the late 1990s as incomes have fallen for poor families and virtually stagnated for middle-income families in Texas. (The full report can be found at http://www.cbpp.org/4-9-08sfp.htm.)

The State of Working Texas 2007 (09/2/2007)
The State of Working Texas 2007 is CPPP’s annual Labor Day report on the status of the Texas economy and workforce drawing from various federal and state data sources, with assistance from the Economic Policy Institute. This report analyzes trends in unemployment, wages, and demographics, along with other issues that affect working Texans. On a positive note, unemployment has declined considerably, the gender wage gap has narrowed, and a smaller share of workers is earning poverty wages. On the negative side, Texas continues to lag far behind the nation and even the region on several key indicators, including educational attainment, health insurance, and wage growth.

The Federal Minimum Wage Increase and Texas (07/24/2007)
Today the minimum wage in Texas increased from $5.15 to $5.85 as part of the first federal minimum wage increase in ten years. The minimum wage will increase again to $6.55 in July 2008, with a final increase to $7.25 in July 2009. Texas is currently the only state of the eleven most populous states whose state minimum wage is not higher than the federal standard, and therefore stands to gain the most from the federal increase.

The Federal Minimum Wage and Texas (05/25/2007)
Yesterday Congress passed the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. Under the bill, which is expected to be signed by the President any day, the minimum wage would climb from $5.15 to $7.25/hour over the next 26 months. The first increase would occur 60 days after the bill is signed and would raise the minimum wage to $5.85/hour. It would then increase to $6.55/hour in 2008 and $7.25/hour in 2009. Since Texas' minimum wage is linked to the federal standard, 863,000 low-wage Texas workers earning less than $7/hour (8.5% of the statewide workforce) will see their wages increase.

Testimony on HB 48 (05/16/2007)
Don Baylor provided testimony on HB 48 before the Senate Committee on Finance. HB 48 relates to distributions from the employment and training investment holding fund.

Why a Minimum Wage Increase Would be Good for Texas (10/11/2006)
Hundreds of thousands of Texas workers earn the minimum wage ($5.15 an hour) or just slightly above. The minimum wage is a poverty wage. Someone working full time on the minimum wage and supporting just himself would only earn a pre-tax income of $10,712 a year. A minimum-wage worker trying to support his family would need to work multiple jobs and rely on significant public assistance, and even then probably wouldn’t make ends meet.

The State of Working Texas 2006 (09/6/2006)
Every year around Labor Day, CPPP issues a report on the status of the Texas economy in conjunction with the national Economic Policy Institute. This report finds that nearly five years since the 2001-02 recession, the economy has yet to rebound with advances in household income or real wages. In fact, Texas has shown a 6.2% decline in real median household income since 2002. Virtually all demographic groups have experienced this trend, with younger workers and African-Americans especially hard hit. On a positive note, although still above the national average, Texas' unemployment rate continues to decline and Texas is adding jobs at a faster rate than the U.S. as a whole.

Moving Forward: Common Sense Policies to Promote Prosperity for Working Texans (08/30/2006)
Just in time for Labor Day, CPPP is proud to release Moving Forward: Common Sense Policies to Promote Prosperity for Working Texans. The report analyzes the barriers facing low-income Texans and provides nine recommendations to promote prosperity and move the economy forward.

Unemployment Benefits Extended for Those Left Jobless by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (03/9/2006)
On Monday, the President signed legislation extending disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) at least 13 weeks for workers who lost their jobs as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For those left jobless as a result of Hurricane Katrina, their benefits expired on Saturday, March 4. Most Rita-related unemployment benefits are set to expire on March 25. Thousands of Texans could qualify for these extended benefits.

Study: Texas Leads U.S. in Income Inequality Between Wealthiest and Middle-Income Families (01/26/2006)
For years, there have been reports about the widening gaps between the rich and the poor, but few include a detailed look at income inequality trends in Texas. The study, Pulling Apart, put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute, finds that Texas leads the nation in the income inequality between its richest and middle-income families, and has the second widest gap between its wealthiest and poorest.

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 Act"a federal law since 1931"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 " 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 raise"they called it “an adjustment” in earnings. Since 1998, the House has raised its annual member salary by $31,600"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 hour"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)"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 Fund"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 Fund"Texas’ most successful state-funded workforce training program"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.

Texas Must Invest in Human Capital: Dallas Business Journal (12/27/2004)
Recently in an interview with the Dallas Business Journal, the Governor touted the superior business climate of our state. He cited our relatively low taxes, tort reform, and the Enterprise Fund as magnets for business.

Latest Data Show Texas Working Families Falling Further Behind Other Americans (09/5/2004)
A new analysis shows just how Texans and their families are doing in wages and employment compared to the average American working family. The news is not good; by many measures, Texas workers trail the national average and are falling further behind.

Texas at Work: Today and Tomorrow (09/1/2003)
This report examines the living conditions and public policies affecting hard working but low-income workers.

HB 804: The "Hard Work Equals Poverty" Bill (04/17/2003)
Texans deserve a decent paycheck for a hard day's work. HB 804 is bad for working families and bad for Texas.

Workforce Development: The Key to Creating Opportunity and Building Prosperity in Texas (01/1/2003)
The Texas State Data Center forecasts that the future labor force of Texas will be less well educated, less skilled, earn lower salaries and wages, and thus be in greater need of labor force training.

Uneven Growth in the New Economy (03/28/2001)
While the 1990s brought a period of sustained growth for the Texas economy, not all Texans enjoyed equally in the benefits of this growth. Texas saw a growing gap in the incomes of its residents during the 1990s. Generally, while upper-middle and upper-income Texans experienced an increase in the real value of their incomes, middle and low-income Texans saw their real incomes stagnate.

Proposed Legislation Would Make Work Pay (03/26/2001)
Two popular myths endure about Texas' poor. One is that most poor people don't work and don't want to work. The second is that work will raise these families out of poverty. Research conducted by the Center for Public Policy Priorities shows that these myths do not correspond with reality. Of the 3 million poor Texans, about 2 million have at least one working adult in their household. Moreover, the problem of poverty despite work is greater in Texas than in most other states. Bills to raise the state minimum wage or to require government contractors to pay a living wage offer one set of solutions to this problem.

Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (09/17/1999)
WIA presents both challenges and opportunities to Texas' workforce development system. It is up to state and local planners to exploit the opportunities in the act to focus activities on services that will lead to long-term self-sufficiency rather than short-term placements.

Legislators Consider Low-Wage Worker Bills (03/18/1999)
Unemployment insurance, minimum wage, and tax holiday proposals before House committees now.

The Minimum Wage Debate (04/24/1996)
A campaign to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time since 1989 has taken off in the past few weeks. President Clinton proposed to increase the minimum wage from the current $4.25 per hour to $5.15 per hour in two annual 45-cent increases now has the support of a majority of the U.S. Senate (including 8 Republicans) and a growing number of Representatives.

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