Expanding Pennsylvania’s use of work-sharing—reduced work hours and pay combined with partial unemployment benefits so that workers experience a smaller income loss—could be instrumental in reducing unemployment during the current recession and accelerating a safe return to fuller employment. Such expansion would cost the state little or nothing because of 100% federal reimbursement for work-sharing unemployment benefits through at least December 31, 2020, and nearly $4 million in grants available to Pennsylvania through 2023. This brief details executive and administrative actions that Pennsylvania could take to expand work sharing and mitigate the damage of the current recession to workers and families, businesses, and the state’s economy.
An economist looking at Vermont statistics can see that the state is benefiting from the U.S. economic expansion, which became
the longest on record last summer: There are more jobs, higher wages, fewer children in poverty.1
At the same time, many Vermonters can look at their paychecks and wonder when the recession is going to end. The state’s
economic growth continues to favor those who are well off, while low- and moderate-income families wait for things to pick up.
Both views are true.
In many ways, Americans have been given a gift for the last decade – an economic expansion unprecedented in its length. And many of the indicators of the expansion are quite strong: Unemployment levels are very low, particularly for those with college degrees. The nation continues to add jobs each month, though Ohio cannot consistently say the same. And the economy is growing each quarter.
But by other measures, we are far behind previous economic peaks. At this point in the business cycle, labor market participation (the share of those either working or seeking work) should be higher than ever – it is instead lower than in all but one of the last 40 years. After so many years of growth, median wages should be at an all-time high – they are instead lower than they were in 1979, when workers were much less educated and our economy was much less productive. And at this point in the cycle, our elected officials should have used the boom years to be ready for the inevitable bust, by investing in essentials that benefit us all long term. Instead, nationally and in Ohio, policymakers have neglected critical needs, leaving us less equipped to face any looming downturn.
Labor unions are a time-tested way for workers to organize and negotiate collectively for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions.
By advocating for better conditions in their own workplaces, unions also set standards for workers throughout the country. While union membership has declined since the 1960s, unions are still key to building a stronger, fairer economy for working Americans.