There has been tremendous focus in recent years on the plight of the typical American worker. In this economic analysis, The Hamilton Project takes a careful look at the data to examine what has been happening to America’s workers since 1990, paying particular interest to differences across workers with different levels of education. In addition, an accompanying interactive feature allows users to further explore these eight profiles by comparing employment, occupational, and earnings patterns between 1990 and 2013.
Order by: Date, Title
Scholars and public commentators have recently debated the impact of education on earnings and earnings inequality. Some have argued that improving education is not the sole solution to inequality. In this economic analysis, Brad Hershbein, Melissa Kearney and Lawrence H. Summers clarify the different elemnts of the public debate and note explicitly that these positions are not necessarily at odds.
As of the end of February 2015, our nation faces a jobs gap of 4.0 million jobs. In this economic analysis, The Hamilton Project explores the recent growth of jobs in the U.S. economy, and takes an historic look at past recessions and growth between 1981 and 2007.
In a new interactive feature and economic analysis, The Hamilton Project explores how the current student loan repayment system often creates a heavy burden on recent graduates by having them make payments in the beginning of their careers when their earnings are low. The accompanying interactive feature allows users to calculate the share of earnings necessary to service traditional loan repayment for 80 college majors.
Using newly released data, The Hamilton Project presents an economic analysis and a new interactive feature to illustrate the great variation in the level and nature of water use across the country.
The importance of a college education for the advancement of one’s life and career has been widely reported. However, there is much speculation about the likely trajectory of one’s lifetime earnings once they’ve chosen a major program to study. To accompany a new interactive feature, The Hamilton Project explores the evidence behind career earnings by college major In this economic analysis.
Each month, The Hamilton Project calculates America’s “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who newly enter the labor force each month. In this month’s economic analysis, we have made changes to the appearance of the jobs gap chart and the methodology behind the jobs gap calculations. As of the end of July 2014, our nation faces a jobs gap of 5.7 million jobs.
In this month’s Hamilton Project employment analysis, we consider the “ripple effects” of a minimum wage increase on near-minimum wage workers, finding that a minimum wage increase could benefit up to 35 million workers.
In the absence of congressional action to extend unemployment insurance, 1.3 million Americans will immediately lose their benefits on December 28th. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project reexamines unemployment insurance and highlights evidence suggesting that extended benefits provide a sizable boost for workers and the economy.
In this month’s economic analysis, The Hamilton Project focuses on two critical issues related to SNAP: (1) the widespread existence of both food insecurity and obesity among low-income children in the United States, and (2) the role of SNAP in fighting poverty during times of weak labor markets. SNAP participation rises and falls in lockstep with the unemployment rate, highlighting SNAP’s role as a safety-net program that bolsters family resources when employment and wages are low.
For many Americans, the high cost of higher education provides a substantial barrier to college entry and ultimate completion. In this economic analysis, The Hamilton Project provides a snapshot of today’s higher education student, illustrating how the current generation of students are older and more financially independent than in the past, and highlights three forthcoming Hamilton Project papers that address the complicated landscape of higher education financing through innovative policy proposals.
Despite the consistent pattern of modest jobs growth over the last several years, the nation’s goal of a full recovery from the Great Recession remains elusive. One factor contributing to this outcome is an unclear definition of what “recovery” means, as policymakers have suggested a wide variety of economic goals. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project explores the “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs the economy would have to add to offset the effects of the Great Recession, which we offer as a useful target for economic recovery. The analysis discusses how changes in population and labor-force participation rates will affect the time it takes to close the gap and how we measure progress toward our economic recovery.
In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project examines how future immigration trends could impact American wages, using targets set in the recently-passed Senate bill as a signpost. Understanding that S.744 is just the first piece of legislation out of the gate, the new analysis suggests that the average impact of new immigrants on the wages of U.S.-born workers would be positive (based on CBO estimates, the analysis assumes approximately 9.6 million additional immigrants by 2013 due to the legislation). The analysis also suggests that American workers are likely to gain through other channels, based on evidence that immigrants enhance purchasing power of consumers, increase demand for goods and services at businesses, and contribute to innovation that boost living standards over time.
Despite the positive return to higher education, many Americans are concerned about their ability to pay for college, and there is increasing focus on the rising burden of student loans on recent graduates. Although average net tuition—the actual cost to students after grant aid, scholarships, and other financial aid—has increased somewhat over the last two decades, the volume of student debt has increased far more dramatically, as has the default rate on student loans. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project examines possible explanations for the recent increases in student debt and default rates.
The role of education in improving social mobility is well-known, and new evidence identifies promising ways to help more low-income students improve their educational opportunities. In a new blog post, The Hamilton Project compares a range of interventions aimed at boosting college attendance and completion among low-income students.
In recent years there has been increasing concern about students who begin two- and four-year college programs but fail to complete a degree—particularly in light of the large increase in student debt and concerns about the high costs of college. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project examines whether starting college is worth it for students who fail to complete a degree. The findings show that students who complete “some college” earn about $100,000 more throughout their lifetime than their peers with only a high school education, and the rate of return to their investment exceeds the historical return on practically any conventional investment, including stocks, bonds, and real estate.
Following the last five recessions in U.S. history, the economy added government jobs—an average of 1.7 million, in fact—that helped spur our economic recovery. In contrast, during our recovery from the Great Recession, the economy has shed more than 500,000 government jobs. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project explores the trajectory of public-sector employment since the Great Recession. The findings show that if the policy response to this recession had been similar to the response after other recent recessions, the economy would have about 2.2 million more jobs today.
There is significant pressure facing policymakers at all levels of government to fund programs that provide the best results for the best value. Worker training programs provide one example of where better use of evidence could dramatically improve outcomes for many Americans. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project explores how the use of evidence and data could help workers determine which training programs can most effectively help them find employment and increase their earnings.
In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project looks at current poverty trends in the United States, the important role of government support programs, and how sequestration could remove critical aspects of the safety net in the midst of continued labor-market weakness. The Project finds sequestration could throw many American families back into poverty during this sensitive period of economic recovery by cutting the very programs that are helping them stay above water.
The federal budget deficit is still the nation’s major economic focus. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project explores the potential impacts of enacted budget cuts, including the looming sequester, on America’s economic well-being. The Project finds that smart deficit reduction will require creative thinking about which budget areas can be made more efficient without damaging programs that are essential to promoting economic growth.
This week, lawmakers passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act to avoid much of the near-term drag on the economy that could have been triggered by the tax increases and spending cuts in the so-called fiscal cliff. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project explores the projected effects of the bill on economic growth and the long-run budget deficit. The Project finds that the immediate budgetary effects of the bill are a positive step, but the debt-to-GDP level will continue to rise and lawmakers face more work in the months ahead.
The Fed recently announced that it would keep interest rates at historic lows until the unemployment rate dropped below 6.5 percent, so long as inflation remained below 2.5 percent. In a new analysis, The Hamilton Project presents a range of estimates of how long it will take for the unemployment rate to fall to 6.5 percent based on different rates of job growth and an assumption about the growth of the labor force.
The Impact of Fiscal Cliff Negotiations on American Jobs: The Tradeoff Between Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth
As the year draws to a close, policymakers and the media have their sights fixed on the “fiscal cliff” – the rapidly approaching day on which federal law mandates precipitous cuts in spending and increases in taxes. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project examines how various approaches to confronting the fiscal cliff are projected to impact the employment situation in the coming year.
About two million U.S. residents stand to lose extended unemployment insurance benefits next month when legislation that temporarily increased how long people can claim benefits will expire. As lawmakers negotiate a path around the fiscal cliff and consider whether to extend these benefits, The Hamilton Project looks at the evidence on unemployment insurance, finding that the benefits of UI extension likely outweigh the costs.
As Americans prepare to cast their ballots for president, many voters are pausing to assess the state of the economy. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project reviews the available data to explore whether America’s economic future looks brighter today than it did four years ago and finds that the data clearly indicate a much rosier future for the United States than was the case in 2008.
There is ongoing debate about the rising cost of college and whether that investment is still worthwhile in today’s economy. In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project examines the rising cost of college over the last 30 years and finds that while college costs are growing, the increase in earnings one receives from a college degree—and, by extension, the cost of not going to college—are growing even faster.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent in August, according to today’s employment report, which is the lowest rate since the onset of the recession. The private sector added more than 100,000 jobs, continuing a steady recovery that has added 4.6 million jobs over the last 30 months. As of August, our nation faces a “jobs gap” of 11.3 million jobs.
The Hamilton Project examines the short- and long-run impacts of public-sector job cuts since the Great Recession. If the share of government employment to population had remained at historical levels, the unemployment rate would be approximately 7.1 percent.
The Hamilton Project examines the relationship between government spending and unemployment, finding that states that spent more during the Great Recession experienced a smaller increase in their unemployment rate.
The Hamilton Project explores what increased domestic natural gas and oil production means for the American energy sector, the environment, and employment.
Our nation’s immigration policy continues to be an issue of debate among policymakers, particularly the impact on the U.S. labor force. The Hamilton Project highlights the economic evidence on what immigration means for U.S. jobs and the economy.
A popular tax myth is that a large segment of Americans do not pay taxes and instead free ride off of our society. The Hamilton Project explores this myth and finds that virtually all Americans will pay some form of tax during their lifetime.
The Hamilton Project reexamines the current rate of labor force expansion, and how shifts in labor force participation will decrease the time it will take to close the “jobs gap.” As a result of new methodology based on population estimates, we now project that at a job creation rate of 208,000 per month, it will take until 2020 to close the jobs gap, rather than late 2023 as we had projected with the old method.
The Hamilton Project examines the decline the marriages over the last 50 years, highlighting the correlation between income level and likelihood of marrying. The decline in marriage is concentrated among less-educated, lower-income Americans.
The Hamilton Project compares trends in unemployment duration before and after the Great Recession and finds that the probability of finding new employment is considerably lower today than it was before the recession.
What is Happening to America’s Less-Skilled Workers? The Importance of Education and Training in Today’s Economy
The Hamilton Project explores the employment and earnings trends facing America’s less-educated workers over the last few decades, and highlights training and workforce development opportunities that could be part of the policy solution.
The Hamilton Project explores the experiences of workers who lost their jobs during the height of the Great Recession and finds that even those workers who have found new employment often earn significantly less than before.
Resources available to children can have long-term effects on their quality of life. The Project examines the family earnings devoted to the typical American child and finds that half of children are now worse off than their counterparts 35 years ago.
As President Barack Obama prepares to give a major jobs address, Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney examine the “job gap” across the United States, looking at the areas of the country that remain hardest hit by the Great Recession.
Examining data about the current state of the economy and job growth in June, Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney look at the role innovation could play in aiding the faltering economy by increasing productivity, boosting wages, and improving the quality of life for American families.
Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney examine the trend in median earnings for the American family over the last 30 years. They find that the typical American family is earning more, but almost entirely because parents are working more.
Is college a worthwhile investment? Hamilton Project Director Michael Greenstone and Policy Director Adam Looney compare the value of a college degree to other investment options and find higher education provides, by far, the greatest rate of return.
How Do Recent College Grads Really Stack Up? Employment and Earnings for Graduates of the Great Recession
As the job market continues to struggle, there has been much debate about whether a college education has been worth the investment for recent graduates. Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney examine whether recent college graduates are better off, in terms of employment and earnings, than their counterparts who did not invest in a degree.
Despite modest improvement in April jobs numbers, the job gap — the number of U.S. jobs that must be created to return to pre-recession levels — is just under 12 million. Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney also explore the impact of air pollution on long-term employment and the productivity of American workers.
The Hamilton Project continues its examination of long-term market treds by asking: what has happened to the earnings of women? In addition, we continue our look at America’s “job gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels — while also absorbing the 125,000 people who enter the labor force each month.
The Hamilton Project updates America’s “job gap,” the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the 125,000 people who enter the labor force each month. This month we also return to our examination of longer-term labor market trends by looking at the earnings of Americans during the past four decades.
The January employment numbers, released today by the U.S. Department of Labor, present mixed evidence about the state of the labor market. While the unemployment rate dropped to 9 percent, payrolls were just better than flat, increasing by only 36,000 jobs last month. Much attention is given to the official unemployment rate, which is certainly an important indicator of our employment situation. But, in fact, the unemployment rate tends to understate the severity of the challenge for American workers in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Unemployment fell to 9.4 percent for December, but not enough to absorb new entrants to the workforce and make a dent in the “job gap,” write Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney. As tracked monthly by The Hamilton Project, December’s job gap remains roughly unchanged since October 2010, at a gap of 11.8 million jobs.
November’s weaker-than-expected jobs numbers offer new evidence that little headway has been made at reducing the pool of the unemployed. Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney, in a new Hamilton Project examination of the “job gap,” focus on the plight of male workers in the longer-term U.S. employment trends.
The October employment numbers, released today by the Labor Department, show tentative progress toward recovery. The U.S. economy is creating jobs for the first time in four months, with an increase of 151,000 jobs last month. The private sector added 159,000 jobs, continuing ten straight months of private sector job growth.
Today’s release of September’s jobs numbers confirms what we all know: too many American workers remain unemployed. As the government reported, the U.S. economy lost 95,000 jobs in September as a decline in government employment outweighed modest private-sector gains.
The August employment numbers reflect the slow pace of the economy’s journey toward recovery. Overall, the U.S. economy continued to shed jobs as employment fell by 54,000 last month. In the private sector, however, businesses added 67,000 jobs, continuing a trend of lukewarm growth that began eight months ago.
As expected, July’s employment numbers suggest that the road to recovery will be long. The economy as a whole lost 131,000 jobs as layoffs of temporary Census workers continued. Private sector employment increased by 71,000 jobs, building on June’s increase of 31,000 jobs.
June’s employment numbers highlight that our economic recovery is not yet on solid footing. An analysis by The Hamilton Project digs into the regional distribution of these unemployment trends and finds that, by one measure, the five hardest-hit states are Alabama, Delaware, Colorado, Georgia, and Utah.
May employment numbers, released by the Labor Department today, demonstrate continued momentum behind our nation’s economic recovery. With 431,000 new jobs, building on the 290,000 jobs created in April, this marks the first time we’ve had five consecutive months of positive job growth since the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007.
Today’s employment numbers reinforce the signs of economic recovery. In April, the economy created 290,000 jobs. This is the first time since the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007 that the economy has had four straight months of positive job creation.
Browse Our Papers
Hamilton Project Updates
A periodic newsletter of events, policy briefs, and working papers from The Hamilton Project.