June jobs report trounces expectations with 850,000 payroll gains as labor-market recovery picks up

Job interview california
Ray Liberge, 48, of Lawndale, talking to Jacky Estrada, the human-resources manager for the Zislis Group, after getting hired as a line cook at Rock’N Fish in Manhattan Beach, during a job fair at The Brews Hall in Torrance.

  • The US added 850,000 payrolls in June, beating the median estimate of a 720,000-payroll gain.
  • The unemployment rate rose to 5.9% from 5.8%. The median estimate was for a drop to 5.6%.
  • The payrolls increase is the largest since August and marks a sixth straight month of additions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Hiring accelerated again in June as Americans returned to the workforce and reopening further juiced demand.

The US economy added 850,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday. The median estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for an increase of 720,000 jobs. The data suggests the labor shortage waned as businesses raised pay to attract workers.

The June print marks the strongest month of job growth since August and the sixth consecutive month of payroll additions. May payroll additions were revised to 583,000 from 559,000.

The unemployment rate rose to 5.9% from 5.8%. Economists expected the headline rate to hit 5.6%.

The labor-force participation rate was unchanged at 61.6%. The metric has become the go-to gauge for tracking the nationwide labor shortage. Hiring unexpectedly slowed through the spring as virus fears, childcare costs, and enhanced unemployment insurance kept Americans from seeking work. Firms have since raised wages to pull in job applications.

Average hourly earnings rose again, by 10 cents, to $30.40. The gain signals firms still lifted wages into the summer to speed up their hiring efforts.

“This pace of progress is solid and it looks like things can get even better,” Nick Bunker, an economic research director at the hiring website Indeed, said. “There’s still quite a bit of damage left to repair, but today’s report suggests that we may rebuild sooner rather than later.”

Snapshot of recovery

The monthly BLS report is among the most detailed snapshots of the labor market’s performance and gives new insights as to how the broader economy is recovering.

Even after the month’s stronger hiring, about 9.5 million Americans remain unemployed. Total payrolls are still about 6.8 million shy of their pre-pandemic peak.

The U-6 unemployment rate – which counts Americans working part time for economic reasons and those marginally attached to the workforce – rose to 10.1% on an unadjusted basis from 9.7%.

Gains were largest in the leisure-and-hospitality and accommodation sectors, where businesses added 343,000 and 75,000 payrolls, respectively. In leisure and hospitality, restaurants and bars counted for more than half of the gain.

The construction industry lost the most jobs, with a decline of 7,000 payrolls.

Roughly 6.2 million Americans named the pandemic as the primary reason their employer ended operations, down from 7.9 million. About 1.6 million cited the pandemic as the main reason they didn’t seek work, down from 2.5 million in May.

The share of Americans telecommuting fell to 14.4% through the month. That compares with the May share of 16.6%.

Experts see encouraging growth through the 2nd half

June stands to represent a turning point for the labor market’s recovery. The month saw the first few states end the federal boost to unemployment insurance ahead of its September expiration. Twenty-six states – all but one governed by Republicans – have announced plans to prematurely cancel the benefit, saying the move should encourage Americans to return to the workforce.

While the set of cancellations aren’t reflected in the June jobs report, jobless claims data out Thursday suggests the plan is working. Filings for unemployment benefits fell to 364,000 last week, beating economist estimates and marking a new pandemic-era low. Continuing claims still rose, suggesting Americans on unemployment insurance weren’t yet rushing to find jobs.

Survey data backs that up. Just 10% of surveyed job seekers urgently sought work in late May and early June, Indeed said. The most cited reasons for the slow return to work were virus fears, employed spouses, and financial cushions.

Those factors keeping Americans from taking jobs should fade as schools reopen and vaccination continues, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said. Americans can look forward to “strong job creation building up over the summer and going into the fall,” he told reporters during a June 16 press conference.

He added that while hiring stumbled in April, some of the slowdown was most likely caused by a skills mismatch between workers and open jobs. There “may be something of a speed limit” on the recovery as people look for work in new areas, Powell said.

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25 states are moving to end unemployment benefits. 15 of them have lower than average vaccination rates.

sears vaccine
People pass walk by the Vaccination center at the Townsquare Mall in Rockaway, New Jersey on January 8, 2021. – Governor Murphy toured a vaccine “mega” site at a former Sears store in Morris County, where health officials hope to vaccinate more than 2,000 people per day in coming weeks once the vaccine arrives.

  • 25 states are cutting off extra federal unemployment benefits early.
  • That decision will impact about four million workers, and cause many to lose benefits completely.
  • Almost every state cutting benefits is still below pre-pandemic employment.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Half of all states in America are ending their participation in federal unemployment benefits early, leaving millions of workers with greatly reduced benefits – or no benefits at all.

Twenty-three of these states are still below pre-pandemic employment, while 15 have lower than average vaccination rates. That means that workers being pushed back into the workplace – especially in the service industry – may find themselves exposed to more unvaccinated customers.

It also means that more workers in those states are still actively looking for, but not finding, work, indicating that those states may not actually be ready to pull the plug on increased benefits.

Even so, at least four million workers stand to see their benefits slashed or cut completely, according to an estimate from Andrew Stettner at the left-leaning Century Foundation. Overall, according to Stettner, 2.1 million workers on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – both federal programs – will completely lose their benefits.

People receiving those include newly eligible gig workers, who have not traditionally been able to receive benefits, and those who have been unemployed long enough to exhaust regular state benefits.

Governors have cited higher unemployment benefits as a disincentive for workers returning, although the story may be more complex. Some workers are rethinking what they want out of work completely, while others have found their industries irrevocably altered by the pandemic’s economic devastation.

All of the states moving to end their unemployment benefits are led by GOP governors. An economic research team at JP Morgan said in a note that it “looks like politics, rather than economics, is driving early decisions to end these programs.”

But one reason that workers may not be returning is continued COVID safety concerns. People over 55 and those with young children have been primary drivers of the drop in the labor force, according to a research note from UBS economists led by Andrew Dubinsky.

Vaccination rates are low in many of the states cutting benefits

In states moving to end their participation in federal unemployment benefits early, the population tends to be less vaccinated. Four of the five states with vaccination rates under 40% are opting out of federal UI.

Vaccination rates are lower in the states that are cutting benefits. Using CDC data from May 27, the average rate among those cutting states is 45.95%, while the rate is 55.14% among states continuing these benefits.

The following map shows the share of adults, aged 18 and older, in each state that are fully vaccinated as of May 27. States marked with an “X” are those cutting federal unemployment benefits.

Louisiana is the only one of the five states with vaccination rates of 40% or lower not cutting benefits. Only four of the 25 states cutting federal unemployment benefits have rates of at least 55%, while 14 states not cutting benefits have rates of at least 55%.

Some states ending benefits are close to pre-pandemic employment

Almost every state is still below pre-pandemic employment, but those cutting benefits seem to be closer to employment levels seen in Feburuary 2020.

The following map shows the percent change in employment from February 2020 to April 2021. States marked with an “X” are those cutting federal unemployment benefits.

Some of the largest employment gaps are in states not cutting benefits, such as Hawaii, New York, and Nevada. Twelve states not cutting benefits are at least 7.0% below their pre-pandemic employment. Alaska has the highest percent decline among the states cutting benefits at -6.9%, followed by Florida at -5.5%.

Some states cutting benefits seem to be closer to getting back to February 2020 employment, such as Montana and South Dakota. These two states are less than 2% below pre-pandemic employment as of April 2021. Utah and Idaho, two states that are soon cutting benefits, are the only states above pre-pandemic employment at 1.2% and 1.5% respectively.

Texas has an unemployment rate above the current national rate and is 3.4% below pre-pandemic employment as of April 2021. On May 17, Gov. Greg Abbott made the announcement that benefits would end come June 26. Texas is the largest state to announce an early termination of federal unemployment benefits.

Dina Jones, 54, is one of those unemployed Texans. She lives in the Houston metropolitan area, and is currently receiving PUA. That means that, come June 26, she will lose all of her benefits.

“We’re scrambling faster to try to find a job,” Jones told Insider, saying she’s overlooked for roles every single week. She added: “I do agree that we should all go to work and we should not be collecting from the government, but he [Abbott] dropped it so fast. People are going to be scrambling.”

A report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that “nearly all the states cutting UI still have significantly fewer jobs than before the pandemic.” In Texas, for instance, nearly one million workers are “officially unemployed,” meaning that they’re actively looking for work but haven’t had luck yet.

Jones is one of them. She said she’s tired of being home all the time, and wants to work. But what stings is hearing Abbott say that that there are plenty of jobs out there, especially since they pay significantly lower than what she used to earn. She said she’s still getting rejected from jobs that pay half of her prior wage.

“What are you telling me, Governor Abbott, that I’m supposed to go to be a cashier?” she said. If she has to go take one of those lower-paying jobs, “I will come home and cry every day of the rest of my life.”

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Kids in universal pre-K are more likely to attend college and graduate high school, study finds

Connecticut pre-k school coronavirus
  • A new study finds that children who attended universal pre-K were more likely to attend college.
  • Universal pre-K also seems to have positive behavioral impacts on attendees across race and income.
  • President Biden wants to establish universal pre-K and more affordable childcare in his new package.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden wants to establish universal pre-K as part of his infrastructure package, proposing a $200 billion investment. The White House estimates the program could benefit 5 million children, and save the average family $13,000.

But it could have a bigger impact: A new study finds that kids who attended universal pre-K are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

The study, conducted by researchers from University of Chicago, MIT, and UC Berkeley, looked at 4,000 public preschool applicants in Boston; they compared the outcomes of students randomly selected by lottery for the program versus those whose numbers were not called.

Attending that universal pre-K did not have a “detectable” impact on standardized test scores. It did, however, have notable impacts elsewhere: The students that enrolled in preschool were 6% more likely to graduate from high school. They were also likely to enroll in the SAT, and to enroll in college.

In the short term, too, students fared better behaviorally: The likelihood of juvenile incarceration went down, along with the total number of high-school suspensions. Benefits were widespread. Students across races and incomes felt benefits similarly, with boys seeing a slightly impact.

“Notwithstanding the gender difference, this study suggests that all students – regardless of race or income – are likely to benefit from a universal preschool program,” the researchers wrote in a brief.

Universal pre-K and affordable childcare could also have a big impact on parents

The American Families Plan contains several childcare-centered provisions, with universal pre-K as one of its planks. Biden has also proposed $225 billion in funding for affordable childcare. An analysis from the National Women’s Law Center and Columbia University found that access to affordable childcare doesn’t just benefit children; it could boost lifetime earnings for women with two children by $94,000.

Additionally, access to universal childcare options would also boost the number of women – especially mothers – in the workforce, an issue that’s come into stark relief with the surprisingly dismal April jobs report.

According to the NWLC and Columbia, expanding childcare access could increase the number of women with young children working full-time by 17%.

Biden has proposed increasing income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and upping capital gains rate – along with closing some potential loopholes and cracking down on tax enforcement – to offset the costs of his childcare proposals.

“We can take … this money and pay for universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in America,” Biden said in remarks on the American Families Plan. He added that it’s a choice:

“[Is it] more important to shield millionaires from paying their fair share? Or is it more important that every child gets a real opportunity to succeed from an early age and ease the burden on working families?”

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Here’s where Americans are moving to and from

  • The Census Bureau recently published population change estimates between 2019 and 2020.
  • Insider looked at which counties saw the largest changes from net domestic migration.
  • Large counties in Florida saw more Americans moving in than out.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Americans were moving during the pandemic, even if at least temporarily, and new data from the Census Bureau shows just how many counties saw more Americans moving in than those moving out to somewhere else in the US.

One Zillow survey released last month found 11% of Americans moved during the pandemic. The results showed the “highest net inbound moves in the first 11 months of 2020″ were in Phoenix; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Austin, Texas.

The latest data release from the Census Bureau on May 4 can give some sense of just where people were moving within the US throughout the pandemic. Census Bureau’s Tuesday release of 2020 population estimates include net domestic migration, or the number of people moving into a county from elsewhere in the US minus people moving out to another part of the country.

Red counties in the above map mean more people moved out than in, and blue counties mean more people moved in than out. We adjusted each county’s net domestic migration from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, by its 2019 population.

Based on the map, more counties in the West saw people moving in than out, while more counties in the Midwest saw more people moving out than in.

Insider previously reported that people were moving to states like Texas and Florida amid the pandemic in part due to these states lower costs of living. Based on the map, almost all of Florida’s counties saw more people moving in than out. Only eight of Florida’s 67 counties saw a negative net domestic migration.

Although counties out West mainly had postive net migration, the majority of counties in California had negative net domestic migration between 2019 and 2020. San Francisco County, Napa County, and Santa Cruz County, are three counties in The Golden State that had more people moving out than in.

Fifty-five of the 62 counties that make up New York had a negative net domestic migration from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. Among the counties in the state that did see a positive net domestic migration, Saratoga County had the largest increase at 830 new residents or 3.61 people per 1,000 residents when adjusting for the county’s 2019 population.

Some counties saw really large increases from net domestic migration compared to others. The following table shows the 10 counties that saw the largest increases from net domestic migration per 1,000 residents among counties with at least 10,000 residents in 2019:

Almost all of the top 10 are located in Southern states. The top two counties with the largest net domestic migration, adjusted by the county’s 2019 population and among counties with 10,000 residents, are both located in Florida. Four of the 10 counties are located in Texas.

While some counties experienced big increases of more people moving in than out, others saw large decreases. The following table shows the 10 counties that saw the largest decreases from net domestic migration per 1,000 residents among counties 10,000 residents in 2019:

The table shows that some other counties in Southern states had large decreases from net domestic migration when adjusting for population size and among counties with at least 10,000 residents. Some of the other counties that saw a lot of people moving out are in the Midwest.

It is important to note that the Vintage population figures released earlier this week are not the same as the figures from the 2020 decennial census. “The estimates are based on the 2010 Census and were created without incorporation or consideration of the 2020 Census results,” the Census Bureau wrote about the population estimates.

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American billionaires added $1.62 trillion to their wealth over the last 13 months

Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • From March 2020 to April 2021, America’s billionaires added $1.62 trillion to their wealth.
  • A new report from IPS/ATF tracks how much billionaires have gained during the pandemic.
  • These gains could signal that inequality keeps increasing during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Over the last 13 months, American billionaires added $1.62 trillion to their wealth – a 55% increase.

This was a finding in the latest report from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF). Both groups have tracked billionaire gains throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen a K-shaped economic recovery for Americans: High-income workers have seen their jobs and pay grow, while low-wage workers have experienced the opposite.

“Billionaires’ huge pandemic-era wealth growth comes on top of a 19-fold increase in billionaire wealth over 31 years-from an inflation-adjusted $240 billion in 1990 to $4.56 trillion in 2021,” the report said. The report used data from Forbes to track billionaire gains from March 18, 2020 through April 12, 2021.

The number of billionaires has also grown, going from 66 in 1990 to 719 today.

“The concern is that we sort of further entrench the inequalities that we came into the pandemic with, meaning the number of households that are economically precarious grows,” Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality at IPS, told Insider.

He said the “concentration” or “pooling” of wealth among billionaires has also accelerated.

“That’s the reality: We’re going to come out of the pandemic another degree of more unequal,” he said.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, the bottom 50% of Americans held $2.49 trillion in total household wealth. Meanwhile, the top 1% added about $4 trillion to their wealth during that time – more than the bottom 50% holds in total.

To offset the inequality that’s arisen during the pandemic, Collins recommends a combination of supporting frontline workers, lifting up the wage floor, and taxing the rich over the next six months.

If nothing is done, Collins said, that economic precarity could grow. He predicts that homeownership could decrease, as economic vulnerability – and the lack of savings – rises.

Additional taxes on the wealthy have become a hot-button topic during the pandemic. The International Monetary Fund has said that one-off taxes on the wealthy and corporations could help with coronavirus recovery; however, not everyone agrees, with Nobel Prize-winning inequality economist Angus Deaton saying the wealthy would find a way to dodge a tax. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig also just said that $1 trillion or more in taxes could be going uncollected every year.

President Joe Biden has proposed a hike in the corporate tax to fund his infrastructure package, and has said that Americans earning over $400,000 could see a tax increase. In a speech defending the tax increase, he said that he was “sick and tired of ordinary people being fleeced.”

Collins said he thinks Biden has about two years to enact change and start making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

“There’s a possibility of totally turning the course here,” Collins said. “But it is going to require some courage and boldness and spine, but I actually think the broader public is with the president on this.”

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The blowout March jobs report was powered by new employment in restaurants, schools, and construction

Restaurant coronavirus orange county
People dine at Alessa while pedestrians walk along the Promenade on Forest Ave, a pedestrian-only experience featuring shopping and restaurants, in Laguna Beach Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

  • Sectors with the strongest job gains in March signal reopening will fuel a swift economic rebound.
  • Leisure and hospitality businesses counted for one-third of last month’s gain of 916,000 payrolls.
  • Hiring in the government and construction sectors improved significantly from the prior month.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The sectors that added the most jobs in March hint at just how much the economic reopening might revitalize the US labor market.

Businesses added 916,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data published Friday morning. The reading handily beat the median estimate of 660,000 payroll additions from economists surveyed by Bloomberg, and signaled that partial reopening, improved vaccination, and new stimulus fueled a strong uptick in hiring.

Job additions were also more evenly spread in March than in the month prior. While February saw leisure and hospitality businesses drive nearly all of the month’s gains, the sector counted for roughly one-third of the March upswing.

Public-sector hiring served as the second-largest source of job additions with 136,000 new jobs, suggesting state and local governments aren’t facing the same stagnant recoveries they endured after the financial crisis.

Job growth in the construction sector also rebounded after harsh winter storms led payrolls to shrink in February.

The utilities industry saw the smallest gain, while information businesses shed 2,000 payrolls through the month.

Here are the sectors that added the most jobs in March.

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US economy adds 379,000 payrolls in February, smashing forecasts as virus cases tumble

Fishing store
  • The US added 379,000 jobs in February, beating the consensus estimate of 200,000 additions.
  • The reading marked a second straight month of labor-market expansion and an increase from January.
  • The unemployment rate dropped to 6.2% from 6.3%, putting it lower than forecasts.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The US labor-market recovery accelerated in February as daily COVID-19 cases swiftly declined and the pace of vaccinations improved.

Businesses added 379,000 payrolls last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected a gain of 200,000 payrolls.

The increase follows a revised 166,000-payroll jump in January. The labor market has now grown for two straight months after contracting in December as virus cases surged.

The US unemployment rate fell to 6.2% from 6.3%, according to the government report. Economists expected the rate to stay steady at 6.3%. The U-6 unemployment rate – which includes workers marginally attached to the labor force and those employed part-time for economic reasons – remained at 11.1%.

The labor-force participation was also unchanged at 61.4%. A falling participation rate can drag the benchmark U-3 unemployment rate lower, but such declines signal deep scarring in the labor market.

The bigger picture

Jobless-claims data and private-payrolls reports offer some detail as to how the labor market fared through February, but the BLS release paints the clearest picture yet as to how the coronavirus pandemic has affected workers and the unemployed.

Roughly 13.3 million Americans cited the pandemic as the main reason their employer stopped operations. That’s down from 14.8 million people in January.

The number of people saying COVID-19 was the primary reason they didn’t seek employment dropped to 4.2 million from 4.7 million.

About 22.7% of Americans said they telecommuted because of the health crisis. That compares with 23.2% in January.

Roughly 2.2 million Americans said their job loss was temporary, down from 2.7 million the month prior. The number of temporary layoffs peaked at 18 million in April, and while the sum has declined significantly, it still sits well above levels seen before the pandemic.

Filling the hole

The Friday reading affirms that while the economy is far from fully recovered, the pace of improvement is picking up, most likely tied to the steady decline in daily new COVID-19 cases. The US reported 54,349 new cases on the last day of February, down from the January peak of 295,121 cases. Hospitalizations and daily virus deaths have similarly tumbled from their early-2021 highs, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

All the while, the country has ramped up the distribution and administration of coronavirus vaccines. The US has administered more than 82.6 million doses, according to Bloomberg data. The average daily pace of vaccinations climbed above 2 million on Wednesday and has held the level. At the current rate, inoculating three-quarters of the US population would take roughly six months, but the Biden administration has a rosier outlook.

The president on Tuesday announced the US would have enough vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May. While distributing the shots will most likely last beyond May, the new timeline marks a two-month improvement to the administration’s previous forecast.

Still, other data tracking the labor market points to a sluggish rebound. Initial jobless claims totaled 745,000 last week, according to Labor Department data published Thursday. That was below the median economist estimate of 750,000 claims but a slight increase from the previous week’s revised sum of 736,000. Weekly claims counts have hovered in the same territory since the fall as lingering economic restrictions hinder stronger job growth.

Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment benefits, fell to 4.3 million for the week that ended February 20. The reading landed in line with economist projections.

Other corners of the economy are faring much better amid the warmer weather and falling case counts. Retail sales grew 5.3% in January, trouncing the 1% growth estimate from surveyed economists. The strong increase suggests the stimulus passed at the end of 2020 efficiently lifted consumer spending in a matter of weeks.

All signs point to another fiscal boost being approved over the next few days. Senate Democrats voted to advance their $1.9 trillion stimulus plan on Thursday, kicking off a period of debate before a final floor vote. President Joe Biden has said he wants to sign the bill before expanded unemployment benefits lapse March 14. The new package includes $1,400 direct payments, a $400 supplement to federal unemployment insurance, and aid for state and local governments.

The bill isn’t yet a done deal. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin forced a reading of the entire 628-page bill on Thursday, as Republicans seek to at least drag out its passage into law. Not a single Republican senator voted to advance the bill Thursday.

A process known as “vote-a-rama” will start after the 20 hours of debate and give Republicans the chance to further impede a final vote by introducing potentially hundreds of amendments to the bill.

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A quarter of Americans support forgiving all federal student-loan debt

College debt
Student-loan debt reached a national high of $1.5 trillion in 2019.

  • Democrats have been going back and forth on how much federal student-loan debt to forgive.
  • President Biden supports up to $10,000, while some progressive Dems are calling for $50,000.
  • A new Insider poll found a quarter of Americans support forgiving all federal student loans.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Recently, Democrats have been clashing over how much federal student-loan debt to forgive.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer called for $50,000 in student loan forgiveness, but President Joe Biden essentially rejected that plan, throwing his support behind $10,000 in forgiveness.

“I will not make that happen,” Biden said of the $50,000 proposal at a CNN town hall. Democrats like Warren, Schumer, and Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on their support for the higher loan forgiveness.

In Insider’s most recent poll, respondents were asked: “A policy under consideration would forgive an amount of student loan debt held by Americans. Do you support this? And if so, what amount?”

Out of 1,154 respondents:

  • 25% support “forgiving all federal student loans.”
  • 13% support forgiving $50,000 in federal student loans, while 12% support forgiving $25,000.
  • 19% support forgiving $10,000 in federal student loans.
  • 22% of respondents said “I do not support any amount of student loan forgiveness.”
  • 9% of respondents said “I don’t know.”

When it came to party affiliations, respondents varied in how much forgiveness they wanted. Here are some key statistical takeaways:

  • 30% of respondents who said they would probably vote in their state’s Democratic primaries or caucuses in order to support forgiving all federal student loans. 
  • 15% of likely Republican voters also support forgiving all federal student loans.
  • 30% of respondents who would “probably participate in another primary or caucus” said they support forgiving all federal student loans
  • 25% of respondents who don’t vote in primaries also support complete forgiveness.
  • 20% of both likely Republican and Democratic voters support $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness.
  • 20% of likely Democratic voters support $50,000 in forgiveness, as do 9% of likely Republican voters.
  • Conversely, 40% of likely Republicans don’t support any “amount of student loan forgiveness,” while 10% of likely Democratic voters don’t support any amount of forgiveness.

 There was also some division between different age groups:

  • 33% of respondents between the ages of 30 and 44 support forgiving all federal student loans, the highest percentage among age groups.
  • Conversely, 40% of respondents over 60 do not support any amount of student loan forgiveness, the highest percentage among age groups. Only 11% of respondents ages 18 to 29 don’t support any forgiveness, the lowest percentage among different age groups.

As Insider’s Hillary Hoffower and Madison Hoff previously reported, forgiving student loan debt – even just $10,000, like in Biden’s proposal – could benefit millions of Americans.

Importantly, student loan forgiveness could make a tangible impact in narrowing the racial wealth gap. Black students graduate with more debt than their white peers. Further, around 87% of Black students at four-year colleges take out loans, while 60% of white students take out loans. 

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Polling data collected 1,154 respondents February 22, 2021 with a 3 percentage point margin of error.

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A $15 minimum wage still won’t be a living wage for many families, MIT and CNBC analysis says

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A protestor holds a sign in Upper Senate Park during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, to push for a raise to the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

A new CNBC analysis of cost-of-living data from Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers looks at how a $15 minimum wage stacks up against a living wage.

For families with two children and two parents working at the minimum wage, current minimums in every state are below a living wage, and even the proposed increase to $15 an hour may still fall short for those families. As CNBC reports: “A $15 minimum wage would push a number of states closer to a living wage, but none would meet or exceed it.”

That data doesn’t take into account any income those families receive from safety net programs. A recent study from UC Berkeley’s Labor Center found that lower wages cost taxpayers more than $100 billion a year, as almost half of the families who would see a raise from a $15 minimum wage rely on at least one social safety net program. The study found that 42% of the $254 billion spent on safety net programs goes to those families.

A $15 minimum wage would go a little bit further for single adults, according to the CNBC analysis. For them, minimum wages currently “fall short” of a living in every state. However, a $15 minimum wage would be a living wage for single adults in about half of the states.

Insider previously reported on the value that a $15 minimum wage would have in every state. Since the cost of living varies in each state, the value of the wage also fluctuates. Insider found that the new potential minimum would go the furthest in Mississippi, where it would be worth $17.77. Per the CNBC analysis, Mississippi is one state where a $15 minimum wage would provide a living wage for single adults. 

Democrats are currently pushing for a $15 minimum wage as part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus relief package, aiming to pass the increase through reconciliation. However, Biden has reportedly indicated that he thinks the raise won’t be feasible – and two Democratic senators have also expressed their hesitations.

But the $15 minimum-wage’s champion, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has said he’s “confident” the hike will stay in the stimulus package. Under the current Democratic plans, the minimum wage would gradually increase to $15 by 2025. By then, $15 won’t even be worth what today’s $15 is because inflation will impact its value.

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Why Democrats want to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025

Bernie Sanders minimum wage
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during an event to introduce the Raise The Wage Act in the Rayburn Room at the Capitol January 16, 2019. in Washington, DC.

  • Democrats are proposing raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025.
  • The gradual increase would help businesses and lower-wage areas adjust to a higher minimum.
  • In some states, $15 is more than double the current rate — just 29 states have rates above the federal minimum.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

There’s been a lot of discussion around raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Currently, there’s two possible routes for Democrats to pass the wage hike: as a standalone bill or through reconciliation. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has indicated that reconciliation – where the bill could pass with only Democrats’ votes in the Senate – is his preferred route.

But both versions of passing the increase would see the minimum wage get to $15 only gradually, after several years. Under the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, the minimum wage would gradually increase to $15 until 2025. Then it would be indexed to median wage growth.

For some, that delay to $15 is jarring. President Joe Biden said throughout his campaign – and in a presidential debate – that he supported a $15 minimum wage, but at the time he didn’t provide a timeline for that rollout.

When Biden recently reiterated his support for the measure at a CNN town hall, he stressed the importance of a gradual increase. He also reportedly told governors the increase likely won’t be included in his stimulus package.

“President Biden campaigned on the promise of a $15-per-hour minimum wage, and to hear him backpedal on that promise and propose a gradual increase over time is disheartening,” Cynthia Murray, a Walmart worker for over 20 years and member leader with United for Respect, wrote in a statement to Insider. “We know that $15 an hour is the bare minimum of what workers need to survive.”

So why a gradual increase?

Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), said that $15 in 2025 would be an “appropriate” level since it would put a dent in “poverty wages.”

“There is a kind of a large hole that we’ve dug ourselves in having low minimum wages relative to what workers need,” he told Insider. “And so then I think it does make sense to have some kind of gradual set of increases, because you do want to give time for some businesses to accommodate the higher wage schedule.”

Researcher Yannet Lathrop of the National Employment Law Project previously told Insider that a gradual increase makes sense, as in some states a $15 minimum wage is more than double the current rate. She said that, if their minimums were closer to $15, it would make sense to do the increase in one or two steps.

However, that’s not the case in many states. Currently, 16 states have the same minimum wage as the federal rate of $7.25, and five default to the federal minimum. That means just 29 states have rates above the federal minimum.

Minimum wages have stayed low for a long time

Broadly, Zipperer said, minimum wage increases used to be more frequent and roughly track the productivity of the economy. But that slowly came to a halt by the 1980s, when there were very few minimum wage increases – leading to a fall in value of the minimum wage. It hasn’t caught up since.

“Had we continued since the 1960s to increase minimum wages in accordance with the productivity of the economy, the minimum wage today would be over $20 an hour,” Zipperer said. “So the money is there. The economy can support much higher wages. It’s just that we’ve effectively redistributed that money away from low-wage workers towards the highest-paid people in the economy.”

And while a minimum wage increase is one step towards addressing that, Zipperer said it’ll take a “larger set” of policies such as higher taxes on higher income and stronger collective bargaining rights to correct this dynamic.

When it comes to workers like Murray expressing disappointment over how long it’ll take to actually receive that raise, Zipperer said he “can’t disagree with that.” Groups like Fight for 15 have been advocating for higher minimum wages for years.

“It is a really a negative mark on this country that we have kept minimum wages so low for so long,” he said. “We have a very large hole to climb out of if we’re going to actually pay people decent wages. And that is the product of decades of infrequent and inadequate minimum wage increases.”

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