Labor and Employment

The last time legislation was enacted to raise the federal minimum wage was in 2007 when Congress passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act, gradually increasing the rate from $5.15 an hour to it's current level of $7.25, reached in 2009.

Yesterday voters in five states (Arizona, Colorado, Maine, South Dakota and Washington) weighed in on the minimum wage through ballot initiatives. All of the initiatives were approved except one: voters in South Dakota rejected a measure that would roll back the minimum wage for workers under 18 from $8.50 to $7.50. That means that minimum wage earners in four states will see a raise in coming years.  

On November 8, voters in five states will have the opportunity to weigh in on the minimum wage in their state through ballot initiatives. All of the initiatives seek to raise the minimum wage, except one - in South Dakota, the Decreased Youth Minimum Wage Referendum is a veto referendum that could overturn Senate Bill 177, which decreased the minimum wage for workers under age 18 from $8.50 to $7.50 and provide that the youth minimum wage is not pegged to inflation.

Only about half of workers participate in a workplace retirement plan according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. In other words, more than 30 million full-time, full-year private-sector workers ages 18 to 64 don’t have access to an employer-based retirement plan and most Americans aren’t confident they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement. States have taken notice and are taking action.

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What is the backbone of the American economy today? The answer policymakers and the private sector increasingly give to that question has affected the way we think about economic development, how we fund education, how we identify what’s important in infrastructure and more—the innovation economy. But defining this term is difficult, because, by its nature, it can consist of different things in different communities and regions. More than just STEM fields, the innovation economy depends on active entrepreneurship, creativity and fresh approaches to leverage the knowledge and skills in existing markets through new technologies. An innovation economy isn’t limited to digital assets—oftentimes advanced manufacturing is included, for example. One of the biggest features of an innovation economy is a highly skilled, energetic workforce and the appropriate economic climate. With many experts suggesting that the current and future economic success of states and communities may rely on the innovation economy, state and local policymakers must understand where their community stands as they create strategic plans and choose how best to spend limited resources.

States and businesses continue to recover from the Great Recession, and they are doing so in an environment shaped by two historic shifts related to economic and workforce development. The first is the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States and the second is new technological requirements of these jobs. While job opportunities continue to grow, today’s factories require greater levels of technical knowledge from employees. But with these new jobs come new challenges in the form of preparing a workforce equipped with the skills and competencies required for a rapidly evolving workplace—filling the critical skills gap among today’s workers as well as students preparing to enter the future workforce.

In May 2016, the national unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, which is the lowest rate in eight years. The unemployment rate was 5 percent when the Great Recession began in December 2007, and it peaked in October 2009 at 10 percent.

The Obama Administration announced yesterday awards totaling $38.8 million for 29 economic and workforce development projects across seven states – Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia – to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry.

A recently passed law will make Massachusetts the first state, as of July 2018, to prohibit employers from inquiring about prior employment compensation.

Massachusetts took an innovative approach to closing the wage gap between men and women with first-of-its-kind legislation barring employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. Bill S.2119, or An Act to to Establish Pay Equity, was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on Aug. 1 and will go into effect July 1, 2018.

“I am pleased to sign bipartisan legislation to create a more level playing field in the Commonwealth and ensure that everyone has...

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