The Workweek: A Round-Up of Labor Market Links for the Week Ending 5/12/17

This week’s labor market news on H1-B Visa program and the death of the retail store

By Andrew Flowers

Welcome back to The Workweek, the Indeed Hiring Lab’s round-up of the latest research, news, and perspectives that made us think deeply or differently about the labor market this week. It’s your guide to the most important new insights about work.

Want to Create More Jobs? Build More Robots

Driverless cars, smart robots and clever algorithms are displacing workers and triggering a jobs crisis, right? Nope. Automation is far from wreaking havoc. The fact is the US needs more—not less—technological innovation. A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation points out that the rate workers move between occupations—a proxy for technology disrupting jobs—is at an all-time low. If technology were displacing workers, the productivity of those still on the job should be rising. But the opposite is happening: the sectors with the strongest job growth—such as education and health services—are the least productive, indicating technology still has plenty of room to make them more efficient. [Wall Street Journal]

Is Goofing Off At Work Skewing Productivity Statistics?

We all know it. Every employee with a computer is spending part of the workday surfing sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit instead of doing their jobs, and this trend may be knocking productivity statistics askew. Official data show productivity growth has been sluggish. But if workers are taking more “masked” leisure while on the job, they may be getting the same work done in less time. Some evidence suggests this is actually happening. Data from the American Time Use Survey indicates workers spend about 50 minutes per week posting photos of their cats or otherwise goofing off. All this loafing may mean US workers are getting more productive in the time they’re really working.  [Bloomberg View]

The American Health Care Act Could Stall the Health Sector Jobs Engine

Health care jobs are on a roll—the sector has grown over 20% since 2007. But the American Health Care Act, recently passed by the House of Representatives, threatens to pour sand into this jobs machine. Obamacare’s expanded Medicaid coverage set off a hiring boom at nursing homes, medical labs and hospitals. The AHCA would cut Medicaid spending by almost $900 billion, funneling fewer dollars to local economies, where health care has overtaken manufacturing as an employer. True, the House bill would cut taxes. But those surpluses are likely to be saved, not spent. And, by capping a medical tax credit at $4,000, the bill would boost health care spending—which already represents nearly 20% of GDP. That could squeeze spending on other goods and services, taking a toll on jobs. (New York Times)

Yellen: The US Must Do More to Boost Women in the Workplace

Fed Chair Janet Yellen says women have made great strides in the workplace, but, by some measures, progress has ground to a halt. In a speech at Brown University, her alma mater, Yellen noted that women still earn about 10% less than men with similar education and experience. What’s more, female labor force participation plateaued in the late 1990s, causing the US to fall to 17th place among 22 advanced economies. This follows a 70-year-period when women’s participation surged from 20% to 74%, a trend that added half a percentage point to the economy’s annual growth potential, according to the central bank chief. Yellen called for female-friendly workplace programs like paid family leave and flexible work schedules, policies she said could boost women’s participation and raise GDP by 5%.

Could Visa Cap on Seasonal Workers Force Vacationers to Bus Their Own Tables?

From ski resorts to beach restaurants, seasonal businesses rely heavily on temporary foreign workers, who often come to the US under the H-2B visa program. But this year the 33,000 national cap on these visas was reached on March 13, forcing some employers to scramble for workers, with small businesses hit hardest. The number of H-2B visa applications more than doubled in the first calendar week of 2017 compared with last year, a sign the market for seasonal workers is tightening. To address the problem, the stopgap federal budget passed earlier this month authorizes the Trump administration to raise the H-2B visa cap to 129,547. [Wall Street Journal]

 

 

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