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Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Statistics

Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Statistics: An updated graph that Claudia Goldin had me make two and a half decades ago. The nonfarm unemployment rate since 1869:

2016 04 05 Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Estimates numbers

Then it was 1890-1990, now it is 1869-2015, thanks to:

  • J.R. Vernon (1994): http://delong.typepad.com/1-s2.0-0164070494900086-main.pdf
  • C.D. Romer (1986): http://delong.typepad.com/spurious-volatility.pdf
  • BLS (2015): http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?ln

with spreadsheet at: http://tinyurl.com/dl20160405

The assumption–debateable–is that “unemployment” is not a farm thing–that in the rural south or in the midwest or on the prairie you can always find a place of some sort as a hired hand, and that “unemployment” is a town- and city-based nonfarm phenomenon.

I confess I do not understand how anyone can look at this series and think that calculating stable and unchanging autocorrelations and innovation variances is a reasonable first-cut thing to do.

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Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from Others' Archives from Six -and-a-HalfYears Ago: Dan Drezner on Chuck Lane

Clowns (ICP)

Every time I try to get out, they drag me back in...

Now I am being told that nobody with any audience ever thought 15/hour in California was a really bad idea. So time to recall this:

Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from Others' Archives: A correspondent asks me for help: Chuck Lane is being used as an authority on the California's 15/hr by 2023 minimum wage proposal. And Chuck Lane says:

A hot concept in wonkdom these days is “evidence-based policymaking.”… Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s labor leaders have announced legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage… to $15 per hour…. Whatever else might be said about this plan, it does not represent an exercise in evidence-based policymaking. To the contrary: There’s a total lack of evidence that the potential benefits would outweigh potential costs—and ample reason to worry they would not…

Dan Drezner: Why I Don’t Need to Take Charles Lane Seriously: "The Washington Post’s Chuck Lane wrote an op-ed arguing in favor of Jeff Flake’s amendment...

...to cut National Science Foundation funding for political science. In fact, Lane raised the ante, arguing that NSF should stop funding all of the social sciences, full stop. Now, I can respect someone who tries to make the argument that the opportunity costs of funding the social sciences are big enough that this is where a budget cut should take place.  It’s harder, however, to respect someone who: 

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Barry Ritholtz (2016): The Counterfactual: "States, those so-called laboratories of democracy, have been engaging in a variety of different policy experiments.... Consider the following... "fourteen states begin the new year with higher minimum wages"... and, during the next few years, minimum wage increases are scheduled to take place in California, New York, Oregon and elsewhere. Regardless of your views... we will get a huge run of data in the coming years. Whatever your beliefs may be, you should pay attention to this data to learn if they are well-supported or not. We also see similar experiments taking place in tax policy.... During the past few years, we saw big tax cuts in Kansas, Louisiana and New Jersey, with big tax increases in others...

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Noah Smith: Unions Did Great Things for the American Working Class: "Politically and economically, unions are sort of an odd duck. They aren’t part of the apparatus of the state, yet they depend crucially on state protections in order to wield their power. They’re stakeholders in corporations, but often have adversarial relationships with management. Historically, unions are a big reason that the working class won many of the protections and rights it now enjoys...

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We May Well Not Be at Full Employment Yet...

FRED Graph FRED St Louis Fed

In the context of overall labor-market utilization trends, the rise in the household-survey estimate of the unemployment rate in December relative to November is worth a note:

  • First, the rise in the unemployment rate is due predominately to yet another increase in labor force participation. It's not that people found it harder to find and keep jobs—it's that people who had thought it would be hard concluding that it will be easier, and so starting to look.

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Would Small Minimum Wage Increases Raise or Have No Effect on Employment?

Il Quarto Stato

That is the current question—would (small) minimum wage increases have no effect on employment because labor-supply curves are steep, or would they boost employment by curbing employers with monopsony power from pushing both wages and employment below their competitive equilibirum values? Yet you would not know it from the very sharp and good-hearted ex-New York Times labor beat reporter Steven Greenhouse. What is he doing? He is, I think, reflexively saying "both sides!": Steven Greenhouse: "Some argue that it's foolish to support a higher minimum because it could reduce employment. But there's a huge debate among economists on this. One school—see David Neumark—finds that a higher minimum reduces employment. The other—see Arin Dube—finds little effect on employment...

Now this is simply wrong. The majority of economists believe that raising the minimum wage from its current level would significantly boost the incomes of the working poor and have little adverse effect on employment. A large minority of economists believe that raising the minimum wage would actually increase employment—that employers currently use their monopsony power to push wages and employment below their competitive equilibrium values, and that a higher minimum wage would reduce their ability to do this and so boost both. The majority and the large minority all, however, agree that there is uncertainty here. It is only a small minority of economists who follow David Neumark on this—who are confident that a higher minimum wage now would have a noticeable negative effect on employment. Thus Steve gets it wrong.

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