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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

Labor's Edge Articles by Sylvia Allegretto


7/18/12

The Middle-Class Wrecking Ball: Wal-Mart and the Waltons

by Sylvia Allegretto

The destruction caused by the bursting of the housing bubble and the subsequent Great Recession continues to wreck havoc on our economy, communities, families and workers. Last month, the Federal Reserve released 2010 data from its Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). This triennial survey, one of the best sources on net worth (assets minus liabilities) for the U.S., just happened to coincide with the recession.

During a period of massive destruction of wealth for typical families and even when their peers lost some ground, the Waltons were able to cash in. It seems what has been bad for the vast majority of Americans has been very good for the Waltons. As the company’s then CFO said right before the start of the great recession “Tough times are actually a good time for Wal-Mart.” Looks like he was right.


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12/7/11

The Few, the Proud, the Very Rich

by Sylvia Allegretto

Much of the current political and popular discourse has focused on inequalities that exist in the U.S. In particular, the Occupy movement has brought the huge disparities in wealth to the forefront. There are a few questions floating round about wealth. First, how skewed is the distribution? Second, it is true that the rich have gotten much richer over time? (a statement I often heard my Grandma make).

Well, there is a plethora of statistics (e.g. here, here, & here) out there, but here are two. The share of wealth held by the top fifth is about 87.2 percent, while the bottom four-fifths share the remaining 12.8 percent of wealth—so the Occupiers are correct in their assessment. And, the riches of those in the top 1 percent are about 225 times greater than that held by the typical family—it was 125 times in 1962—so, Grandma was correct too.


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10/18/11

Social Security—A Pillar of Retirement Income

by Sylvia Allegretto, PhD

Last week, my friends down the hall at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education released a new book, titled Meeting California’s Retirement Security Challenge, edited by Nari Rhee. The book (available free for download) addresses many issues pertaining to retirement, and my part reports the lay of the land for current retirees in the United States and specifically for California. This figure is from my contribution in the book’s second chapter, and it illustrates current sources of income for retirees in California.


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9/27/11

The Fallout from the Great Recession Continues

by Sylvia Allegretto, PhD

Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for 2010. Data from the report represents that of the first full year into our economic recovery (which official started in June 2009). It is no surprise, given the focus of this report and the weak recovery, that it is filled with bad news: poverty is up, health insurance coverage and incomes are down.

For this post I’ll focus on median household income from the report for the United States and California. From 2009 to 2010 median income in the U.S. fell by $1,154 (or 2.3%) and in California the decline was a steeper $2,602 (or 4.6%). The change in income since 2007—the peak of the last economic expansion—totals -$3,378 (-6.4%) for the U.S. and -$5,362 (-9.0%) for California.


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8/31/11

The State of Jobs on Labor Day 2011

by Sylvia Allegretto, PhD

This Labor Day, two months after the second anniversary of our economic “recovery”, it seems appropriate to assess how job markets are faring in the United States and California. It is informative to note that the official dating committee of recessions, the National Bureau of Economic Research, evaluates several different economic indices when assessing the beginning and ending dates of recessions— job growth or loss is just one of those—which is why many workers are surprised that the recession already ended. But officially it has. By the National Bureau’s reckoning, the recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

At its worst, between December 2007 and February 2010, the United States lost 8.7 million jobs—some 6.3 percent of all jobs. Two years into the United States’ recovery, the jobs deficit is still 4.9 percent, or 6.8 million jobs, which is much larger than any of the three previous recessions. In terms of the sheer losses of jobs compared to pre-recessionary employment, the U.S. labor market today is in a severe deficit.


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