Democrats and Republicans want to fund infrastructure using federal unemployment benefits yanked from workers

GettyImages protest dc covid-19 stimulus relief
Demonstrators rally near the Capitol Hill residence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to call for the extension of unemployment benefits on July 22.

  • President Joe Biden threw his support behind a bipartisan infrastructure package on Thursday.
  • But that package doesn’t contain funding from tax hikes, as he initially proposed.
  • It would be partially paid for by targeting unemployment fraud and unused federal unemployment funds.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden has thrown his support behind a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal focused on roads and bridges – and part of the spending would be potentially offset by unused relief funds and targeting unemployment insurance fraud.

Repurposed federal UI will account for $25 billion of the deal’s pay-fors, a person familiar with details of the plan told Insider. The bulk of the funding from UI will come in the form of “unemployment insurance program integrity,” which will provide $80 billion in revenue.

“It’s the fraud. It’s the fraud from UI,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told Insider when asked about the inclusion of unemployment insurance in the funding. She added: “Apparently, there are several reports that talk about significant fraud in the UI.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, a key moderate, said the deal wouldn’t detract from enhanced UI. “There’s an awful lot of fraud in UI that can be repurposed,” Manchin told Insider.

Previously, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito – a major GOP player and negotiator – had floated repurposing unemployment funds from the states ending federal early benefits early to pay for an infrastructure package. That seems to have garnered traction among lawmakers.

Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow and unemployment expert at the left-leaning Century Foundation, cautioned that legislative details still needed to be ironed out. He also said there’s a risk people could lose jobless aid they’re entitled to if anti-fraud prevention policies are poorly implemented.

“There’s been certainly a surge in organized crime activity in the UI system that has led to a lot of fraud,” Stettner told Insider. “The thing that we have to be concerned about: Are the mechanisms that are being put in place to try and prevent that fraud? Does it lead to unfairness in the system? Are people being wrongly implicated in fraud? We’ve had a lot of cases with that.”

At least 26 states are prematurely cutting off federal unemployment benefits this summer.

Many of the states opting out are ending all federal benefits, including programs with expanded eligibility. That means thousands of workers will lose – or already have lost – all benefits completely. So far, a dozen states have ended their benefits, cutting off somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people.

Now, lawmakers are proposing that those severed benefits be used to fund new infrastructure spending, rather than tax hikes on America’s wealthiest and its large corporations.

Overall, about 4 million Americans will see their benefits end ahead of schedule. Federal programs are set to end nationwide in September, but several governors have opted to cut off their benefits in an effort to get workers back into the workforce – although the current labor shortage may also be driven by lack of childcare, or a mismatch between open roles and unemployed workers’ qualifications. As Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey reported, job searches were actually down in states ending those benefits early.

“This is not because the government – because the world – is suffering from people not returning to their jobs,” Keshya Dempsey told Insider of the decision to end benefits prematurely, which will cut her off as well. The 35-year-old Dempsey lives in Florida, where the $300 in extra weekly benefits will end on Saturday.”This is political. It has always been political.”

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Biden whispers the quiet part out loud on the labor shortage: ‘Pay them more!’

Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • The solution to attracting workers is to simply “pay them more!” Biden whisper-shouted on Thursday.
  • Massive demand for workers gives Americans a new “bargaining chip” for earning higher pay, he added.
  • The comments come as businesses are hiking wages and offering incentives as they scramble to rehire.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The solution to the labor shortage is, according to President Joe Biden, as simple as a higher wage.

The president allayed a range of concerns around the economy during a Thursday press conference. Among them is the nationwide labor shortage, which has seen hiring slow despite millions of Americans still being unemployed. The shortage may be delaying a full labor-market recovery, but he told journalists at the White House there’s an easy solution.

“I remember you were asking me … ‘Guess what? Employers can’t find workers.’ I said, ‘Pay them more!'” the president said in his distinctive whisper-shout.

The refrain has been popular with Biden as businesses rush to attract workers. The president said in May that the accelerating rate of wage growth was a “feature” and “not a bug” of the post-pandemic economy. Increased competition between employers gives Americans more “dignity and respect in the workplace,” he added.

“This is the employees’ bargaining chip now,” he said on Thursday. “[Employers] are going to have to compete and start paying hard-working people a decent wage.”

The president also eased fears that recent bouts of stronger inflation would hinder the recovery. The Consumer Price Index – a popular gauge of broad inflation – rose 0.6% in May, beating the median estimate of a 0.4% gain. The reading marked the fastest rate of price growth since 2009, but Biden assured the overshoot would soon fade.

“The overwhelming consensus is it’s going to pop up a little bit and then come back down,” he said.

The president’s comments were made during a press conference focused on the $1 trillion bipartisan deal for infrastructure spending that Biden had thrown his support behind earlier on Thursday. The plan includes funding for physical infrastructure like roads and bridges, as well as improved broadband access and public transit projects.

The package represents just half of the White House’s economic plan, Biden said during the afternoon press conference. The other portion will focus on improving childcare, education, and clean energy projects. Both proposals will move through Congress “in tandem” and represent Biden’s next steps for building a stronger economy.

“If it turns out that what I’ve done so far – what we’ve done so far – is a mistake, it’s going to show,” the president said. “If that happens, my policies didn’t make a lot of sense. But I’m counting on it not.”

Biden has long advocated a $15 minimum hourly wage, but opposition from Senate Republicans and even some Democrats has kept such legislation from reaching his desk. Still, elements of his $1.9 trillion stimulus package may have achieved a similar effect. The $300-per-week boost to jobless benefits led unemployment insurance to compete with the average wage in every state, Insider’s Andy Kiersz calculated.

Twenty-six states have since announced plans to prematurely end the benefit in hopes of pushing more Americans to find work. Yet early job-search data suggests the move is doing little to spur employment. And some jobless Americans told Insider in May that, after receiving generous UI payments for several months, they don’t plan to return to low-paying jobs.

“These guys are just dumbasses if they actually think that the UI is the problem and not the wage,” Matt Mies, an unemployed 28-year-old, told Insider’s Juliana Kaplan, referring to Republican governors ending the benefit early.

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Biden throws support behind $1 trillion infrastructure deal with GOP as Democrats press for separate party-line package

Joe Biden thumbs up
President Joe Biden.

  • Biden struck a deal on a $1 trillion infrastructure plan with the GOP on Thursday.
  • “We have a deal,” Biden told reporters outside the White House.
  • It’s expected to encompass hard infrastructure like roads and bridges.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden has thrown his support behind a $1 trillion infrastructure deal negotiated by a Senate group of Republican and Democrats, a major step towards his goal of working with the GOP despite their opposition to the majority of his agenda.

“We have a deal,” Biden said Thursday after an Oval Office meeting with bipartisan group of 10 senators. “We made serious compromises on both ends.”

The Senate faction came out strongly in favor of the plan. “It was essential to show the Senate can function, that we can work in a bipartisan way,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said. Other negotiators championed the package as well.

The framework has not been made public, but it’s expected to encompass physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Around $550 billion of it would constitute new spending beyond existing programs. That represents around a quarter of Biden’s initial $2.3 trillion plan unveiled in late March.

The bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers is evenly divided between the parties. GOP senators include Sens. Romney; Rob Portman of Ohio; Cassidy of Louisiana; Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The Democratic half is made up of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Jon Tester of Montana; Mark Warner of Virginia; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

But Democrats are poised to approve a follow-up economic package sometime in the late summer or early fall.

“There ain’t no infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference, referring to a larger package that would pass along party lines, likely without any GOP votes.

Read more: These documents circulating on Capitol Hill show Bernie Sanders’ and Democrats’ $6 trillion backup plan if Republicans reject Biden’s current infrastructure proposal

Many Democrats, particularly progressives, are pressing for quick passage of a separate economic package focused on Biden’s spending initiatives. He’s introduced a plan for tuition-free community college and affordable childcare, along with an extension of monthly cash payments for parents.

“We know what we need to get done – roads, bridges, childcare, clean energy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told reporters. “That’s one package altogether.”

Asked by Insider about her preferred timeline for approving a party-line reconciliation plan, she emphasized “soon” and said July.

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Your bank or grocery store might be out of coins, but the Fed says there’s not actually a shortage – people just aren’t using them

change drawer coin shortage
The empty change drawer of the cash register at Symbiote Collectibles in West Reading, PA July 9, 2020.

  • The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the availability of quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies.
  • Unlike supply issues that have affected computer chips and lumber, there’s no actual shortage of coins.
  • Roughly $48.5 billion of coins are in circulation, but much of that is “sitting dormant,” the Fed says.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you’ve gone to the bank or grocery store recently, you may have noticed an availability problem that originally reared its head at the height of the pandemic last year: there aren’t any coins.

Meanwhile, manufacturers can’t get enough semiconductor chips because there aren’t enough being made. Home prices are at record highs because there aren’t enough houses. Used-car prices are soaring because there’s no such thing as a used car factory.

So when is a shortage not really a shortage?

Last month, the US Federal Reserve acknowledged that businesses and banks in various parts of the country were once again having a hard time getting their hands on enough quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies.

But this time is different.

“Since mid-June of 2020, the U.S. Mint has been operating at full production capacity,” the bank said. Last year the Mint produced 14.8 billion coins, up 24% from the year before.

It’s not a shortage, per se, but that doesn’t explain why you can’t get a roll of quarters to do your laundry.

To find out, the Fed and other partners did what they do best: convened a task force.

The US Coin Task Force discovered that of the roughly $48.5 billion of metal currency in circulation, much is “sitting dormant” in the pockets, jars, and couch cushions of America’s 128 million households.

In other words, there are more than enough coins in existence, they just aren’t flowing smoothly thought the economy. Money, as you may recall, serves three key functions: a unit of account, a store of value, and a medium of exchange.

“The weak circulation affects most everyone, but the hardest hit are small cash-dependent businesses and those who are least well off,” task force member Hannah vL. Walker said in a statement. “For millions of Americans, cash is the only form of payment.”

Right now, the dormant coins are performing the first two roles just fine and failing at the third. The problem for the Mint is that it can’t arbitrarily make more coins available without causing a lot of other problems in the US monetary system.

The tack force recommends an even simpler solution: break open that piggy bank.

“If just a fraction of the coin sitting dormant in households and businesses is redeemed and reused, this problem can be greatly reduced,” the task force said.

By spending, depositing, or converting unneeded coins, the Mint said consumers can help close the circulation loop that has been disrupted over the past year and get a small but important part of the market moving again.

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Kevin McCarthy mistakenly attributes a 19-year-old’s poster promoting the child tax credit to the IRS

Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

  • Kevin McCarthy criticized the IRS for wasting taxpayer dollars on a poster promoting the child tax credit.
  • But 19-year-old college student Tobin Stone actually made the poster – not the IRS.
  • Democrats are pushing for an expansion of the credit while GOP members largely oppose it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blamed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for wasting taxpayer dollars on a poster promoting the child tax credit. But the IRS actually didn’t make the poster – a 19-year-old college student did.

In a now-deleted Facebook post on Wednesday, McCarthy posted a photo of a poster that college student Tobin Stone created promoting the child tax credit, which is a monthly credit given to families with children. McCarthy attributed the poster to the IRS, though, and criticized the agency for wasting taxpayer dollars on a “government handout.”

“Infuriating,” McCarthy wrote. “The IRS is literally spending taxpayer money to advertise a government handout. This is welfare without the work requirements.”

Stone, a political science and public policy student at Albright College in Pennsylvania, told Forbes he’s been a “big fan” of the child tax credit ever since it was introduced, which is why he created the poster that he first tweeted out in April.

McCarthy has not yet publicly commented on mistakenly attributing the poster to the IRS, but some Democrats were quick to notice the minority leader’s error. Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, for example, wrote on Twitter that the “IRS had nothing to do with [the poster], but the enhanced Child Tax Credit WILL put money in the pockets of working families, no thanks to @GOPLeader who voted against it.”

Beyer’s is referring to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law, which increased the child tax credit’s amount to $3,600 per child age 5 and under, and $3,000 for every kid between 6 and 17. It gives families the option to receive a monthly payment of $250 or $300 depending on each child’s age, and individuals earning below $75,000 and couples making under $150,000 qualify for the full checks.

Not a single Republican voted for Biden’s stimulus law, but even so, some Republicans, including McCarthy, have been promoting elements of it.

With regard to the child tax credit, Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported earlier this month that some centrist senators might stand in the way of a permanent expansion of the credit, which 41 Democratic senators had previously called for.

But Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, one of the architects of the credit, told Insider he had spoken to some moderates and continues to stress the benefits it will have on American families.

“It’s going to be an amazing moment in modern America where people actually see themselves and their families benefiting dramatically from something that we’ve done in Washington DC,” Bennet said in an interview. “It’s going to make a huge difference to people.”

McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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The US housing boom helped wealthy homeowners the most

House for sale US
A house’s real estate for sale sign shows the home as being “Under Contract” in Washington, DC, November 19, 2020.

  • The housing market rally has largely benefitted wealthy homeowners as prices soar at record pace.
  • Sales of homes priced over $1 million are up 245% year-over-year. Homes worth under $100,000 are down 11%.
  • The gap is just one of several K-shaped trends in the uneven economic recovery.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Like many other aspects of the US recovery, the housing market’s boom has been anything but even.

The market rally started as a broad upswing. After home sales tumbled at the start of the pandemic, surging demand and low mortgage rates spurred a nationwide buying spree. But as the boom charged forward, a K-shaped split emerged in which type of homes were rapidly gaining value and which were being left by the wayside.

The term “K-shaped recovery” has come to exemplify uneven elements of the US’s economic rebound. Wealthier Americans generally fared better through lockdowns as they switched to remote work and leaned on savings. Low-income Americans and minorities, however, have longer recoveries ahead of them after being disproportionately hit by the COVID-19 recession.

Existing home sales data published Tuesday reveals just how wide that gap has become in housing. Sales of homes worth at least $1 million have surged 245% year-over-year, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s a larger jump than any other price category.

Conversely, sales of homes worth less than $100,000 have plummeted 11% from May 2020 and sales of homes worth between $100,000 and $250,000 dipped 1.7% through the year.

The disparities point to growing inequity in the US housing market. Homes worth up to $250,000 accounted for about 30% of sales in May, while those worth more than $1 million only represented 6.3% of sales.

The sales gap widened even further in the spring. As dire inventory shortage drove home-price inflation to its fastest rate since the mid-2000s market bubble with demand handily outstripping supply, sales for the most expensive homes soared even higher, and sales of homes costing less than $100,000 dropped lower.

Taken together, the country’s wealthiest homeowners benefitted most from the price rally, and those living in the country’s least-expensive homes have largely missed the market upswing.

Other data suggest the trend will continue through the summer. Housing starts have wavered in recent months as expensive lumber costs and lot shortages cut into homebuilding. And sales of new homes slid again in May, suggesting contractors are far from meeting massive demand with new supply.

New homes that have gone to market are also more skewed to wealthier buyers than a year ago. Where the majority of new homes in May 2020 were priced between $200,000 and $299,000, the majority now cost between $300,000 and $399,000, according to the Census Bureau.

The shift has little to do with more expensive units hitting the market, Ali Wolf, chief economist at housing platform Zonda, wrote in a Wednesday tweet. Instead, the change reflects price growth over the last year. Roughly 95% of contractors raised prices from April to May, and most of the increases averaged $10,000 or more, Wolf said.

Addressing the shortage will take a massive effort, according to NAR’s estimates. Decades of underbuilding and losses of existing homes left the US with a supply shortage of about 6.8 million houses, according to a report published earlier this month.

Builders will need to accelerate construction to 2 million units per year should they aim to fill the hole over the next decade, NAR added. That would be a sizeable jump from the May pace of 1.57 million homes per year.

“There is a strong desire for homeownership across this country, but the lack of supply is preventing too many Americans from achieving that dream,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, said in the report.

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25 GOP-led states and one Democratic state are cutting $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits. Here are the 26 states making the cut this summer.

GettyImages 1231114054
President Joe Biden.

  • Some Republican governors have decided Americans make too much from expanded unemployment benefits.
  • After a surprisingly dismal April jobs report, they moved to end federal jobless aid early.
  • That also includes eliminating programs benefiting gig workers, freelancers, and the long-term unemployed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Alabama

kay ivey
Gov. Kay Ivey.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Monday that the state was halting its participation in federal unemployment benefits starting June 19. 

Those include the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program for gig workers and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for the long-term unemployed.

“We have announced the end date of our state of emergency, there are no industry shutdowns, and daycares are operating with no restrictions. Vaccinations are available for all adults. Alabama is giving the federal government our 30-day notice that it’s time to get back to work,” Ivey said in a press release.

Alabama is also resuming its work-search requirements for recipients, which had been paused throughout the pandemic.

The average weekly benefit in Alabama amounted to $283 in March. Its unemployment rate stands at 3.8%, higher than the 2.8% it had in February 2020.

Alabama is among the seven states that have not raised the hourly minimum wage for workers since the hike to $7.25 in 2009

Experts say other factors are keeping workers from jumping back into the labor force, such as a lack of childcare access and fear of COVID-19 infection.

Alaska

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Alaska will end its participation in the extra $300 in weekly benefits effective June 12. 

“As Alaska’s economy opens up, employers are posting a wide range of job opportunities and workers are needed,” labor and workforce development commissioner, Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, said in a statement.

Extensions for the state benefit will continue through September 6. 

Alaska’s unemployment rate was 6.6% in March 2021, a 0.8% increase from the rate of 5.8% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $298.

Arizona

Doug Ducey Arizona governor
Gov. Doug Ducey.

Gov. Doug Ducey said the state will terminate all federal jobless benefit programs on July 10, per a news release from his office.

Arizona, however, is setting aside some federal funds to provide a one-time $2,000 bonus for people who return to work by Sept. 6. There are some strings attached.

People qualify for the measure if they are already receiving jobless aid — and they must earn less than $25 hourly at their next job. That amounts to a yearly salary of $52,000. Individuals must also work 10 weeks with a new employer to get the cash.

The state last recorded an unemployment rate of 6.7%, higher than the 4.9% it had immediately before the pandemic in February 2020.

Arizona’s average jobless payout is $238.

Arkansas

Asa Hutchinson
Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on May 7 that the state would no longer participate in federal unemployment after June 26. 

“The $300 federal supplement helped thousands of Arkansans make it through this tough time, so it served a good purpose. Now we need Arkansans back on the job so that we can get our economy back to full speed,” Hutchinson said in a press release, which cited South Carolina’s and Montana’s separate decisions to opt out of the federal assistance program.

Its unemployment rate is 4.4%, slightly higher than the 3.8% level of February 2020. The average weekly benefit in the state is $248.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, 74.7% of the UI Arkansas disbursed came from federal funds, according to a report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. On January 1 of this year, Arkansas’s minimum wage increased to $11 — several dollars above the federal rate of $7.25.

Florida

ron desantis florida vaccine 60 minutes
Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida will end its participation in the $300 in additional weekly benefits effective June 26. However, other federal programs, including PUA, “will continue for the time being as DEO [Department of Economic Opportunity] continues to carefully monitor job posting and industry hiring trends.”

In a press release, DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said “transitioning away from this benefit will help meet the demands of small and large businesses who are ready to hire and expand their workforce.” Florida’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in March 2021, 1.9% higher than 2.8% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $235.22.

Georgia

brian kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that the state will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective June 26.

“Even in the middle of a global pandemic, job growth and economic development in Georgia remained strong — including an unemployment rate below the national average,” Kemp said in a statement. “To build on our momentum, accelerate a full economic recovery, and get more Georgians back to work in good-paying jobs, our state will end its participation in the federal COVID-19 unemployment programs, effective June 26th.”

The Georgia unemployment rate was 4.5% in March 2021, 1% above the February 2020 rate of 3.5%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $278.95.

Idaho

Gov. Brad Little
Gov. Brad Little.

Gov. Brad Little said Idaho would no longer draw federal money to fund enhanced unemployment insurance, and the state will cancel its program on June 19.

It’s time to get back to work,” Little said in a Tuesday statement. “My decision is based on a fundamental conservative principle — we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working.”

The state was among those that recently reimposed a job-seeking requirement for people receiving jobless aid.

Idaho’s unemployment rate stands at 3.2%, a higher level compared to 2.6% in February 2020. The average weekly unemployment benefit in the state is $355, per the Labor Department.

Indiana

GettyImages eric holcomb
Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state is terminating all federal unemployment programs effective June 19.

“There are help wanted signs posted all over Indiana, and while our economy took a hit last year, it is roaring like an Indy 500 race car engine now,” Holcomb said in the news release. “I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow.”

The state is also among those now requiring people to actively seek work while on unemployment.

Indiana’s unemployment rate is 3.9%, higher than the 3.2% it had in February 2020. The average weekly benefit is $254.

Iowa

kim reynolds iowa
Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state would cancel federal jobless benefits on June 12.

“Federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs initially provided displaced Iowans with crucial assistance when the pandemic began,” Reynolds said in a statement. “But now that our businesses and schools have reopened, these payments are discouraging people from returning to work.”

The state’s unemployment rate stood at 3.7%, still slightly higher than the 2.9% it recorded in February 2020. Iowa’s average weekly jobless benefit is $430.

Louisiana

john bel edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Louisiana is the first Democrat-led state to prematurely cut off its participation in $300 weekly benefits. Those benefits will end July 31.

Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill that would increase the state’s regular weekly benefits by $28. One of the bill’s stipulations was that supplemental unemployment benefits had to end on July 31.

Local news outlet WWLTV reported that, prior to the bill’s passage, the governor had already said he planned on ending benefits in early August, when school begins.

Louisiana’s unemployment rate was 7.1% in May 2021, nearly two points higher than 5.2% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $175.57.

Maryland

larry hogan
Gov. Larry Hogan.

Maryland will end its participation in all federal unemployment programs effective July 3.

Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement that the state has vaccinated 70% of its adults, hitting the goal set by President Joe Biden, and that Maryland’s “health and economic recovery continues to outpace the nation.”

“While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply,” Hogan said. “And we have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages.”

Maryland’s unemployment rate was 6.2% in April 2021, nearly three points higher than 3.3% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $318.16.

Mississippi

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves
Gov. Tate Reeves.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Monday that he was pulling out the state from the federal pandemic-aid programs starting June 12.

“It has become clear to me that we cannot have a full economic recovery until we get the thousands of available jobs in our state filled,” Reeves wrote on Twitter.

The average weekly benefit in the state is $195, according to the Employment and Training Administration at the Department of Labor.

The state’s unemployment rate is 6.3%, a figure still elevated from its pre-pandemic rate of 5.8% in February 2020.

Mississippi is among the seven states that have not lifted hourly pay for workers since the last increase to the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

Missouri

missouri gov mike parson
Gov. Mike Parson.

Gov. Mike Parson announced on Tuesday that Missouri would be ending its participation in federal unemployment on June 12. 

“While these benefits provided supplementary financial assistance during the height of COVID-19, they were intended to be temporary, and their continuation has instead worsened the workforce issues we are facing,” Parson said in a statement. “It’s time that we end these programs that have ultimately incentivized people to stay out of the workforce.” 

The average weekly benefit in Missouri amounted to $258.57 in March. Its unemployment rate stood at 4.2% in March, a drop from 4.3% in February. That’s still 0.5% higher than the March 2020 unemployment rate.

Missouri raised its minimum wage to $10.30 on January 1, 2021.

Montana

greg gianforte
Gov. Greg Gianforte.

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced the state was ending federal benefits on June 27.

“Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good,” Gianforte said in a statement. “We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce.”

Taking its place will be a $1,200 return-to-work bonus, an amount equivalent to four weeks of receiving federal jobless aid. Workers will be eligible for the cash after a month on the job. The measure enjoys support among some congressional Republicans.

The average weekly benefit in the state is $468 without the federal supplement. The state’s unemployment rate has reached pre-pandemic levels, at 3.8% in April.

Nebraska

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts delivers the annual State of the State Address to lawmakers in Lincoln, Neb., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Nebraska will end its participation in all federal unemployment programs effective June 19.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Gov. Pete Ricketts said the benefits are a “disincentive for some people” in returning to work. The curtailing of benefits come as part of the state’s initiative to reopen and “return to normalcy.”

Nebraska’s unemployment rate was 2.8% in April 2021, lower than 2.9% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $343.25.

New Hampshire

chris sununu
Gov. Chris Sununu.

Gov. Chris Sununu said on Thursday that he was planning on ending the additional $300 weekly benefit before it’s due to expire, NECN reports. However, the date that benefits will be discontinued in the state remains unclear.

The state will also begin work search requirements for those on UI beginning May 23.

The New Hampshire unemployment rate was 3.0% in March 2021, above the February 2020 rate of 2.6%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $277.26.

North Dakota

doug burgum north dakota trans school sports bill
Gov. Doug Burgum.

Gov. Doug Burgum said the state would pull out of federal unemployment benefit programs on June 19.

“Safe, effective vaccines have been available to every adult in North Dakota for months now, and we have an abundance of job openings with employers who are eager to hire,” Burgum said in a news release, noting the state had its highest number of online job postings since July 2015.

The state’s unemployment rate is 4.4%, still almost double its level of 2.3% in February 2020. North Dakota’s average weekly unemployment payment is $480.

Ohio

Mike-DeWine-2019
Gov. Mike DeWine.

Gov. Mike Dewine said the state will scrap the federal unemployment benefit programs on June 26.

“This assistance was always intended to be temporary,” DeWine said in a statement.

The state’s unemployment rate stands at 4.7%, the same level it had in February 2020. The average weekly benefit in Ohio is $383.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Gov. Kevin Stitt is dropping all federal unemployment programs starting on June 26.

“That gives people six weeks to get off the sidelines and get back into the game,” he said in a news release.

Stitt also announced that the first 20,000 laid-off workers now receiving benefits that are rehired will get a $1,200 “incentive using funds from the American Rescue Plan.”

People are eligible if they receive some form of federal unemployment aid between May 2 through 15, and keep their new job for at least six weeks. Individuals must also have a 32-hour workweek.

The Oklahoma unemployment rate stands at 5.2%, higher than the 3.1% it had before the pandemic broke out in February last year. The average weekly benefit is $310.

South Carolina

henry mcmaster
Gov. Henry McMaster.

Even before the jobs report hit, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said the state would stop its participation in federal unemployment effective June 30.

“This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits,” McMaster wrote in a letter to the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce.

McMaster spoke with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson about the expanded unemployment program, saying he believed it’s a “counterproductive policy.”

The average weekly benefit in the state stands at $228. South Carolina’s unemployment rate is 5.1%, still nearly double its pre-pandemic rate of 2.8% in February 2020.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, 76.7% of the unemployment insurance that South Carolina disbursed came from federal funds, according to the report from the Economic Policy Institute. The minimum wage in South Carolina was last raised in 2009, when the federal minimum wage as a whole was increased to $7.25.

South Dakota

Kristi Noem
Gov. Kristi Noem.

Gov. Kristi Noem announced Wednesday that the state will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective the week of June 26. In a related statement, the state’s Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman noted that “help wanted signs line our streets.”

“South Dakota is, and has been, ‘Open for Business.’ Ending these programs is a necessary step towards recovery, growth, and getting people back to work,” Hultman added.

The South Dakota unemployment rate was 2.9% in March 2021, unchanged from 2.9% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $369.

Tennessee

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.
Gov. Bill Lee.

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that federal unemployment benefits would end in the state effective July 3.

“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” Lee said in a statement. “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”

The state’s unemployment rate in March 2021 was 5%, a 0.1% increase from the month before and 1% higher than the March 2020 rate. Tennessee’s average weekly unemployment payment is $219.45. Tennessee is one of seven states where the minimum wage remains at the federal level of $7.25.

Texas

greg abbott texas
Gov. Greg Abbott.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he was scrapping all federal unemployment programs on June 26.

“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said in a statement.

Nearly 1.3 million people in the state will experience a sharp cut in their unemployment aid, per an estimate from Andrew Stettner at the liberal-leaning Century Foundation. It’s the largest state yet to eliminate the programs, with the eliminated aid coming to an estimated $8.8 billion.

The average weekly benefit in Texas is $405. The state’s current 6.9% unemployment rate is still nearly double what it used to be in February 2020.

Utah

AP spencer cox
Gov. Spencer Cox.

Utah is withdrawing from federal unemployment aid programs effective June 26.

“This is the natural next step in getting the state and people’s lives back to normal,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement. “The market should not be competing with the government for workers.”

The state has a 2.9% unemployment rate, slightly higher than the 2.5% pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The average weekly benefit in Utah is $428.

West Virginia

WV Gov Jim Justice
Gov. Jim Justice.

West Virginia will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective June 19 at midnight.

“We need everyone back to work,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement. “Our small businesses and West Virginia’s economy depend on it.”

West Virginia’s unemployment rate was 5.9% in March 2021, 1% above the February 2020 rate of 4.9%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $276.15.

Wyoming

mark gordon
Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gov. Mark Gordon said the state was scrapping the federal unemployment benefit, along with programs aiding gig workers and those who exhausted traditional state payouts.

“Wyoming needs workers, our businesses are raring to go,” Gordon said in a statement. “People want to work, and work is available. Incentivizing people not to work is just plain un-American.”

The Wyoming unemployment rate is 5.3%, slightly higher than the 4.8% it once had in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $430.

Are you unemployed and have a story you want to share? Contact these reporters at jkaplan@insider.com and jzeballos@insider.com.

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Schumer and Pelosi say they’re still barreling ahead without the GOP on a multitrillion-dollar social spending package in July

Nancy Pelosi Chuck Schumer in Capitol, smiling
Speaker of the House House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talk to reporters at the Capitol.

  • Schumer and Pelosi are plowing ahead with a separate spending package without the GOP.
  • “We’re all on the same page,” Schumer said.
  • A bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure deal is in sight after weeks of sputtering negotiations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress say they’re moving ahead without Republicans on a separate economic package that would include President Joe Biden’s proposed social programs.

“We’re all on the same page: both tracks, the bipartisan track and the budget reconciliation track, are proceeding at pace, and we hope to have votes on both of them in the House – in the Senate and the House in July,” Schumer told reporters on Wednesday evening.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed her commitment to a “dual-track” approach as well.

“We’re very excited about the prospect of a bipartisan agreement,” she said. “And then it takes us to whatever else we wanted to do.”

Most Democrats are pressing for a separate package focused on the social initiatives Biden has laid out, including healthcare, childcare, and education. That would rely on a pathway known as reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority in the Senate.

But all 50 Democratic senators would have to support the sprawling spending package, given the strong odds of united GOP opposition.

A bipartisan Senate group appeared on the verge of striking a $1 trillion infrastructure deal on Wednesday evening after several weeks of sputtering negotiations. The package would be focused on areas typically considered core infrastructure, like roads and bridges.

“We’ve agreed on a framework on the entire package and we’re going to the White House,” Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters.

The bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. GOP senators include Sens. Romney of Utah; Rob Portman of Ohio; Bill Cassidy of Louisiana; Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The Democratic half is made up of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Jon Tester of Montana; Mark Warner of Virginia; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The lawmakers are expected to personally pitch the framework to Biden on Thursday.

The framework has not been publicly released yet, though Manchin suggested it would be released Friday after the finer details were hashed out. Both Manchin and Portman told Insider the group did not boost an initial $40 billion in funding for the IRS to collect more tax dollars.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Meet the Cathys, heirs to the Chick-fil-A empire, who have a fortune of more than $14 billion and are one of America’s wealthiest family ‘dynasties’

chick fil a family 4x3
The Cathy family.

When it comes to the Cathy family’s reported $14.2 billion fortune, it’s all about the fried chicken. That’s because the Cathys are the family behind the Chick-fil-A empire.

S. Truett Cathy officially founded the popular fast-food chain in the 1960s, laying the roots for what is today America’s 21st-richest family wealth “dynasty,” according to the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies’ “Silver Spoon Oligarchs” Report.

Since then, the family-owned business has remained in the hands of second- and third-generation family members. Truett’s sons, Dan Cathy and Don “Bubba” Cathy, run the company as CEO and executive vice president, respectively – they each have a reported net worth of $7.1 billion, according to the Forbes 400.

Born and raised in the south, the Cathy family has been dedicated to continuing Truett’s legacy, growing Chick-fil-A across the US. Chick-fil-A has been celebrated for its company culture, customer service, and quality food, but it has also received backlash over anti-same-sex marriage issues that align with the Cathys’ Christian beliefs.

Take a look inside the rise of Chick-fil-A and the family behind it.

The Cathy family’s multibillion-dollar fortune is rooted in the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A.

S. Truett Cathy
S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A (second right) poses with son Dan T. Cathy (far left), daughter Trudy White, and son Donald “Bubba” Cathy.

SourceForbes, Business Insider

In 1946, without any management or restaurant experience, S. Truett and his brother Ben opened an Atlanta diner called the Dwarf Grill, later renamed the Dwarf House.

Truett Cathy

Source: Business Insider

It was there that they first served chicken sandwiches, mainly to Ford factory workers and airport employees who worked nearby.

truett cathy

Source: Forbes

Three years later, Ben died in a plane crash and Truett found himself handling the business on his own.

truett cathy

Source: Forbes

In 1967, he opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant at a mall in Atlanta.

truett cathy chick fil a

Source: Forbes

More than 60 years later, Chick-fil-A is a massive restaurant empire.

chick fil a

Source: Chick-fil-A

Today, it has more than 2,500 restaurants across 47 states and Washington, DC.

chick fil a

Source: Chick-fil-A

In 2019, it was the third-largest restaurant chain in the US by sales in 2019, bringing in $11.3 billion.

chickfila thanksgiving

Source: Insider

It’s the most profitable fast-food chain in America on a per-location basis, with the average per-unit revenue greater than $4 million.

Chick fil A
hick-fil-A cow and brand ambassador attend the PANDORA Discovery Den SXSW on March 17, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Source: Business Insider, QSR

According to Forbes, Truett “practically invented the idea of a quickly served chicken sandwich.”

Chick-fil-A

Source: Forbes

Chick-fil-A is a family-owned business. Truett had three children with his wife, Jeannette: Dan, Don “Bubba,” and Trudy.

truett cathy office
Truett’s family photos.

Source: Forbes

When he passed away in 2014, he left the fast-food chain to his sons, Dan and Bubba. They’re America’s 21st-richest family-wealth “dynasty,” according to a recent report.

dan cathy
Dan Cathy.

Source: Forbes, The Silver Spoon Oligarchs Report 

Dan is Chick-fil-A’s chairman and CEO – he spends a lot of time visiting restaurants and grand openings across the US.

Dan Cathy

Source: Forbes, Forbes

It’s a fitting position for someone who grew up doing odd jobs at Chick-fil-A, including scraping chewing gum from table bottoms with a butter knife.

chick fil a dan cathy

Source: Forbes

He helped expand Chick-fil-A’s growth monetarily and geographically, opening restaurants in big cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

Chick-fil-a
Chick-fil-A in Manhattan, New York.

Source: Chick-fil-A

Dan lives on a farm south of Atlanta with his wife, Rhonda. He has two sons, Andrew and Ross, and three grandchildren.

cathy dan

Source: Chick-fil-A

Outside of Chick-fil-A, he’s very involved in community organizations, including the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Aquarium, and Atlanta Committee for Progress. He’s particularly passionate about the revitalization of Atlanta’s Westside.

georgia aquarium

Source: Chick-fil-A

He also serves on multiple boards and is involved in ministries, philanthropies, and nonprofits such as City of Refuge, Passion City Church, and the Rock Ranch.

dan cathy

Source: Chick-fil-A

In his spare time, Dan plays the trumpet, gardens, and landscapes.

dan cathy chick fil a

Source: Chick-fil-A

He also pilots small jets and rides motorcycles. He was previously a competitive wrestler.

chick fil a dan cathy

Source: Chick-fil-A

His brother, Bubba, has held a number of positions in the company, including construction apprentice, and is the executive vice president.

Bubba Cathy photo (1)

Source: Chick-fil-A, Forbes

Like his brother, Bubba is a motorcyclist, leading groups on charity rides in the US. He’s also an avid sailor, taking groups on charity yacht voyages.

bubba cathy

Source: Forbes

Dan and Bubba both have fortunes of $7.1 billion, according to the most recent Forbes 400 list.

dan cathy

Source: Forbes 400

Their sister, Trudy Cathy White, began working for the family business at age 19 when she became operator of a new Chick-fil-A restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama. Today, she’s an ambassador.

Trudy Cathy

Source: Chick-fil-A

She’s also an author – her book “Climb Every Mountain” is published by Simon & Schuster.

climb every mountain trudy white

Source: Simon & Schuster

It could be said that she got the writing gene from her father, who published five books about business, motivation, and parenting during his lifetime.

truett cathy book

Source: Business Insider

She and her husband, John, have four children and 15 grandchildren.

trudy cathy white

Source: Trudy Cathy White

Truett raised his children in a “modest house” but had a car collection that included former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s 1937 Lincoln Continental, George Glaze’s Brewster 8 Town Car, and a 1931 Duesenberg.

truett cathy car collection

Source: Business Insider

The Cathy family is known for their Southern Baptist values – Chick-fil-A is famously closed on Sundays, restaurant openings often include prayer, and employees are advised “to base your business in biblical principles.”

chick fil a

Source: Forbes, Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal

Truett and his wife created the WinShape Foundation in the 1980s, which donates money to Christian organizations and offers residential camps, a retreat center, and a foster home.

truett cathy

Source: Business Insider

Truett taught Sunday school for more than 50 years. Dan followed in his footsteps – he teaches Bible study on Sundays.

truett cathy chick fil a

Source: Chick-fil-A, Business Insider

The Whites served for 20 years with the International Mission Board. For half that time, they served as missionaries in Brazil, where they started a small church.

trudy white

Source: Chick-fil-A

They also cofounded Lifeshape and Impact 360 Institute, two religious nonprofits.

trudy cathy white

Source: Chick-fil-A

In 2012, Dan stirred controversy for his comments on gay marriage. In an interview with Baptist Press, he said he’s “guilty as charged” when it comes to supporting what he calls the “biblical definition of the family unit.”

chick fil a anti gay

Source: Baptist Press

WinShape was criticized for donating to anti-gay marriage groups – about $5 million since 2003, Forbes reported in 2012. Chick-fil-A told Insider in 2019 that giving to all but one of these organizations – Fellowship of Christian Athletes – has stopped.

chick fil a anti gay marriage

Source: Forbes, Forbes

Dan has said the chain doesn’t have an anti-gay agenda. “While my family and I believe in the biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees,” he previously said.

chick fil a kiss in.JPG

Source: Forbes

Chick-fil-A may be considered controversial by some, but it also has a reputation for its commitment to customer service and employee experience: It’s received a number of rankings in both categories and has been dubbed the “Best Franchise Brand.”

Chick fil A

Source: Chick-fil-A

Its giving arm, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, is focused on providing support for youth and education programs nationwide. In 2017, they funded $150,000 programs for Salvation Army, including camps for kids and the Angel Tree program in Atlanta.

salvation army

Source: Chick-fil-A

And back in April 2020, Chick-fil-A donated $10.8 million to local communities for pandemic relief.

chick fil a pandemic
People walk past Chick-fil-A in New York City.

Source: Chick-fil-A

In 1973, Truett initiated a scholarship program called Remarkable Futures Initiative. It has awarded $75 million to nearly 53,000 team members, Chick-fil-A told Insider in 2019.

Chick-fil-A

Source: The Wall Street Journal

In 2021, it awarded $19 million in scholarships to restaurant team members.

Chick-fil-A

Source: Chick-fil-A

Franchisees have been known to cover costs for not just a worker’s education, but for support during a personal emergency. They also encourage employees to follow their dreams.

chick fil a

Source: Business Insider

Chick-fil-A’s employee culture translates to how the brand treats its customers, with a focus on quality food and a pleasant dining experience. It’s taken on a healthier menu, removing all trans fats from its foods, using only antibiotic-free meats, and even establishing an Innovation Center to develop recipes.

Chick-fil-A

Source: Business Insider

In 2018, it was rated the most beloved fast-food restaurant in the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual survey.

Chick fil A

Source: Insider

Ever the family-owned business, Chick-fil-A has no plans to go public.

chick fil a cow.JPG
Truett’s family photos.

Source: Insider

The Cathy family has been working together for more than 70 years and third-generation members continue to carry on the tradition – 12 of Truett’s grandchildren work at Chick-fil-A.

truett cathy mark cathy
Truett with grandson Mark Cathy.

Source: Forbes, Chick-fil-A

New York Times reporter Kim Severson wrote in 2012 that many people in Atlanta have respect for the Cathy family.

mark cathy
Mark Cathy.

Source: The New York Times

“People speak of the Cathys as if they were local royalty, and the company logo is as much a part of the Atlanta cityscape as Coca-Cola’s,” she wrote.

chick fil a

Source: The New York Times

When asked what was so smart about creating his chicken sandwich, Truett answered with, “Nothing. That’s why I was able to do it.”

S. Truett Cathy

Source: Chick-fil-A

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Republicans seem determined to learn absolutely nothing from our bizarre post-pandemic economy

steve scalise
Steve Scalise, pontificating about inflation to the Chair of the Federal Reserve without asking any questions.

  • The pandemic economic recovery is weird, but it can teach us a lot about things like inflation, wages, and inequality.
  • But to learn those lessons – and make good policy based on them – legislators have to acknowledge them and pay attention.
  • Republicans have demonstrated that they have zero interest in any of that.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

You have to feel a little bit sorry for Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

On Tuesday he testified before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and it was a waste of his time. Both Democrats and Republicans failed to ask productive questions about how the Federal Reserve is responding to the weird economic dislocations caused by the pandemic – inflation being foremost among them. Most lawmakers were just trying to make a political point.

But Republican House members – especially Minority Whip Steve Scalise – were most responsible for turning the hearing into a worthless mess. Instead of asking questions about Federal Reserve policy or even the economy generally, GOP members pitched fits about government spending, lockdowns (which are ending in even the most cautious states), and the Wuhan Lab leak theory.

Yes, we know Chairman Powell has literally nothing to do with investigating the origins of the pandemic. But I guess someone should tell House Republicans.

It’s too bad we didn’t get to hear Powell’s thoughts, because the current, bizarre economy has lessons for us – about worker behavior, supply chains, the housing market, and the future of work. But Republicans aren’t interested in learning them. GOP economic orthodoxy does not leave room to adapt to extraordinary situations, not even a once-a-century pandemic recovery. And, in large part, because instead of happening under Donald Trump this economy – one hot enough for workers to have options and get higher wages – is happening under a Democratic president.

You can take the GOP to Congress, but you can’t make it think

Let me say this again: Neither party – Republicans or Democrats – had great questions at the Powell hearing. But while Democrats were trying to draw Powell into saying he supports Biden’s infrastructure plan – which any Fed chair would avoid so as not to seem partisan – at least they were trying to make a case for doing something to sustain our economy. Their comments were not useful, but they were relevant.

The Republican performance was abysmal because none of them were engaging with the strangeness or the opportunity of our economic reality. Scalise (the ringleader of the stunt queens) spent half of of his questioning time patting the Trump administration on the back for its handling of the economy and complaining about how lockdowns ruined that run – as if the lockdowns were for funsies and not a consequence of a deadly virus spreading everywhere. When he talked about inflation, it was only to berate Powell and argue against government spending. There were no questions.

The other half of the time, Scalise just pontificated about the role of government benefits in holding back the labor market – a constant GOP complaint that has been solidly debunked. When Powell tried to explain how quickly the labor market would come back – “I strongly suspect labor supply and job creation will be moving up well over this year” – Scalise ignored him. Scalise, after all, was not looking for actual knowledge.

When Powell mentioned that workers were hesitant to go back to the labor market for a variety of factors, including a lack of childcare and fear of the virus. See, we’re learning from this economy: It’s pretty clear that widespread childcare programs could help people out of work get back to it faster. But the GOP hates any government program – even ones that could help parents get back to work – so they just ignore the entire lesson.

Funkyeconomy

For the first time since the 2008 financial crisis we’re seeing inflation all around us. Houses are so expensive that experts fear those higher prices are going to creep into the rental market, even in small American cities. World trade is just coming back after factories were forced to shut down for months, so key goods like semiconductors and cars are in short supply. Low-wage workers are demanding higher wages because the labor market has tightened as jobs open faster than employers can fill them.

Yet in the face of all this inflation interest rates remain low. The bond market is telling us – at least so far – that this wonky economy will return to normal. But there’s no denying that things are deeply weird. As Powell keeps saying in interviews and hearings: “We have to be humble about our ability to understand the data.”

This is a time watch closely and learn.

Consider the psychology of this moment. Workers – who’ve lived through a horror show of a year – are deciding not to return to jobs that made them unhappy. After a decade of low wage growth and dissatisfied workers, quit rates are hitting historic highs. You might think the precariousness of the pandemic would make people crave any kind of stability now that life is normalizing, but that’s not what’s happening. Instead Americans are taking risks and trying to find better jobs. Honestly, you have to hand it to us. It takes guts.

How to sustain a strong economy, make sure workers are supported, and possibly start to reverse decades of inequality without causing runaway inflation or an economic disaster is critical. The way Powell is thinking about balancing those issues is extremely important. We know that there are millions of vacant jobs, and millions of workers to fill them but does The Fed think that this YOLO attitude workers have is going to slow that process down? Does that mean wages will creep up higher for longer? Is there a point at which The Fed is worried about wage growth because of its impact on prices?

It would be good to know how Powell is thinking about this an a myriad of funky things the economy is doing right now. Maybe we could even apply the lessons we learn about rising wages to the fight against inequality. Who knows? Either way, no matter what the answers are to these questions, Republicans aren’t listening. It’s impossible for lawmakers to make good economic policy if they do not learn from the data, and they have already decided to waste this crisis.

Read the original article on Business Insider