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Looking behind the numbers of the September jobs report

Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 11:50 AM

As the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs in the month of the September – possibly due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma – the numbers behind that new jobs report did not seem to indicate a broader negative outlook for the U.S. economy, but it’s clear that economic growth still hasn’t moved into a higher gear as yet in the Trump Administration.

Here is some of what we learned:

1. This was the first monthly job loss since September 2010. Seven years. That’s how long it had been since the monthly jobs report went the wrong way, back during the second year of the Obama Administration. The loss of 33,000 jobs means the average monthly job growth so far in 2017 is just over 148,000 jobs. At this point in 2016, the average monthly job growth was just under 200,000 jobs. At this point in 2015, the average monthly job growth was 209,000 jobs. So, it’s clear that job growth so far during the Trump Administration has slowed from past years.

2. The unemployment rate headline was good. The national jobless rate dropped to 4.2 percent in September, which is the lowest since February of 2001, at the start of President George W. Bush’s Administration. The jobless rate did not go down because people were leaving the labor force – instead, the size of the labor force swelled by 575,000 people, which means many more people were actively looking for a job. The Labor Force Participation rate increased to 63.1 percent, the highest since March of 2014. So, those are strong numbers, despite the 33,000 job loss. But economists have long said that the economy needs monthly job growth of over 300,000 to help restore employment to many who suffered during the 2008-2009 downturn. And we haven’t been close to that.

3. The U6 rate lowest since June 2007. The broadest measure of unemployment is known as the U6 rate, which includes all unemployed, those who are working part time while looking for a full time job, and those who aren’t looking currently for a job – but still want one, and have worked in the last year. That rate dropped to 8.3 percent in September, the lowest U6 rate in over 10 years. That’s another good indicator about the psyche of the economy, and workers as well.

4. Where were the job losses and job gains? This is where we get into the impact of the hurricanes, according to the Labor Department. “Employment in food services and drinking places dropped sharply in September (-105,000), as many workers were off payrolls due to the recent hurricanes,” the report stated. One of the strongest areas of the U.S. economy continues to be in health care, which added 23,000 jobs in September. Manufacturing was flat, which was a change from the last year.

5. GOP calls for tax reform. As D.C. digested the first negative growth jobs report in seven years, Republicans in Congress reinforced their call for tax reform legislation, arguing a cut in rates will spur new economic growth, and help the economy create more jobs. “In the weeks ahead, the Ways and Means Committee will move forward with pro-growth, pro-middle-class tax reform legislation that Congress will ultimately send to the President’s desk this year, for the first time in 31 years,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). Democrats meanwhile saw something different. “The U.S. economy is not working as it should for middle-class America,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY). One thing is for sure, this September jobs report was a curve ball for the markets.

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House approves big, bipartisan bill to deal with opioid crisis

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 1:25 PM

In a fresh reminder that political cooperation is not dead on Capitol Hill, the House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a sweeping package of over fifty bipartisan bills to address the misuse of prescription opioid pain medicine, as lawmakers voted to expand a variety of services under Medicare and Medicaid to deal with the drug scourge.

“We can do things when we put partisan politics aside and work together,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), one of a number of lawmakers who touted various provisions in the sweeping opioids measure.

“This particular bill, H.R. 6, is the crown jewel of all that legislation,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).

“This legislation will strengthen our efforts to advance treatment and recovery issues, and bolster the fight against deadly and illicit drugs,” said Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA).

“This is a big deal in the fight against the largest public health crisis in our country,” said Speaker Paul Ryan.

“Mr. Speaker, so often we hear about the partisan wrangling in Congress and clearly there are dividing lines on some high-profile issues,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). “But this an issue where Republicans and Democrats have come together.”

The final vote was 396-14. The bill now goes to the Senate.

“Currently, Medicare doesn’t cover opioid treatment programs,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). “These bills are pieces of a large, complex puzzle. We need to find realistic solutions with long term outcomes.”

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Trump: GOP should give up on immigration until after 2018 elections

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 7:29 AM

A day after Republicans in the House defeated one more conservative immigration reform plan, and delayed action until next week on a second bill because of a lack of GOP votes, President Donald Trump on Friday suggested a different avenue entirely – urging Republicans in Congress to drop the issue until after the November elections.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” the President tweeted early on Friday morning, saying the answer was simple – get more GOP lawmakers in the 2018 mid-term elections.

“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump pledged, as he blamed Democrats and the Senate rules, which would force him to get 60 votes to do what he wants on immigration.

Mr. Trump’s suggestion came as GOP leaders were still looking for a magic legislative formula on immigration reform, as the issue has divided Republicans in both the House and Senate.

The suggestion by the President that immigration efforts are a waste of time came as Republicans were trying to fine tune a second immigration bill in the House, with hopes of approving that next week, before lawmakers go home for a July Fourth break.

Many GOP lawmakers had been hoping that the President instead would come out very publicly in favor of those efforts, and help convince some reluctant House Republicans to get on board, and vote for the plan, despite misgivings about certain provisions.

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House defeats one GOP immigration bill, delays vote on second plan

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 3:04 PM

Struggling to find consensus on immigration reform, the House on Thursday rejected a more conservative Republican immigration reform bill, and then in a bid to salvage the effort, GOP leaders delayed action on a second immigration reform measure until Friday.

41 House Republicans voted against the first GOP bill, which was defeated on a vote of 231-193, as the plan received more votes than most GOP lawmakers had expected.

The Republicans who voted against the first GOP bill were a mixture of the Republican Party’s different flanks, featuring more conservative lawmakers who wanted to do more, and moderates who felt it went too far.

“This is a difficult issue,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who voted for this bill, but wouldn’t tell reporters whether he would support a second measure on Friday.

“Any jot or tittle one way or the other, you lose people because of the complexities, because of the sensitivities, and the emotions in this particular piece of legislation,” Meadows said.

Here is the list of the 41 Republicans who voted “No.”

One of the reasons more moderate Republicans voted against the first bill was because of the lack of a path to citizenship for younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.

While that is in the bill to be voted on Friday, those provisions then could cause some other Republicans to vote against it, arguing it is nothing but amnesty.

“I’m a big fat no, capital letters” said Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), after the first vote.

“It doesn’t do anything to stop illegal immigration,” Barletta added.

In debate on the House floor, Democrats focused mainly on the more recent immigration battle over the separation of illegal immigrant families, blaming President Donald Trump for doing little to seek compromise.

“On this issue, God is going to judge you as well,” said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) said to Republicans who were backing the President’s get-tough effort on the border.

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Supreme Court: States can force online sellers to collect sales taxes

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 10:48 AM

In a decision that will impact online shopping for all Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a South Dakota law which required online companies to collect and remit state sales taxes, even if that company did not have a ‘physical presence’ in the state.

“Each year, the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a 5-4 decision.

“These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause,” the majority wrote.

The ruling overturned previous Supreme Court precedents from the 1992 Quill case, which had theoretically made internet sales a tax-free zone in certain situations; over the years, that changed, but this ruling will now require online sellers to collect sales taxes for all states.

The decision allows state and local governments now to press online retailers to collect sales tax revenues – which some experts believe could bring in billions of dollars in additional revenues, which would be collected if the online seller had a ‘physical presence’ – a store – in that state.

Maybe the most interesting part of the ruling was the lineup of Justices, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined with Kennedy, and three more conservative Justices to provide the majority, while the Chief Justice sided with the remaining three more liberal Justices.

“This Court ‘does not overturn its precedents lightly,'” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the minority, as he said the Court was wrong to change the way states can deal with sales taxes and online sales, arguing the Legislative Branch should take that step.

“Any alteration to those rules with the potential to disrupt the development
of such a critical segment of the economy should be undertaken by Congress,” Roberts wrote.

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