Economic Trends

By any measure, the U.S. economy is massive. Like the sea, our economy is swept by cross currents and changed by forces beyond its control. Yet, its sheer size means that those forces – increased productivity, rising unemployment, dropping interest rates, global competition — may only be felt months and often years after they are first sighted. Economic Trends tries to track those forces so IAM members can prepare their families for what lies just over the horizon …

Links to Information on Economic Trends and Issues Affecting IAM Members Everyday

Pinklining: How Wall Street’s Predatory Products Pillage Women’s Wealth, Opportunities & Futures by Suparna Bhaskaran (June 2016)

Shorter Life Expectancy Reduces Projected Lifetime Benefits for Lower Earners by the United States Government Accountability Office (March 2016)

An increase in average life expectancy for individuals in the United States is a positive development, but also requires more planning and saving to support longer retirements. At the same time, as life expectancy has not increased uniformly across all income groups, proposed actions to address the effects of longevity on programs and plan sponsors may impact lower-income and higher-income individuals differently.

The State of American Retirement: How 401(K)s Have Failed Most American Workers by Monique Morrissey, Economic Policy Institute (March 2016)

Today, many Americans rely on savings in 401(k)-type accounts to supplement Social Security in retirement. This is a pronounced shift from a few decades ago, when many retirees could count on predictable, constant streams of income from traditional pensions. This chart book assesses the impact of the shift from pensions to individual savings by examining disparities in retirement preparedness and outcomes by income, race, ethnicity, education, gender, and marital status.

The Graying of American Debt by Meta Brown, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, Katherine Strair, and Wilbert van der Klaauw (February 24, 2016)

The U.S. population is aging and so are its debts. This post looks at how debt is changing as baby boomers reach retirement age and millennials find their footing.

What Do Unions Do for the Middle Class? By Richard Freeman, Eunice Han, Brendan Duke, and David Madland (January 13, 2016)

Balancing Paychecks and Public Assistance: How Higher Wages Would Strengthen What Government Can Do by David Cooper (February 3, 2016)

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Currency Manipulation, Trade, Wages, and Job Loss by Robert E. Scott (January 13, 2016)

A Tale of Two Retirements: One hundred CEOs have as much in retirement assets as 41 percent of American families by the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies (October 28, 2015). Click here for the full report.

Long-Termism or Lemons-The Role of Public Policy in Promoting Long-Term Investments by Marc Jarsulic, Brendan V. Duke, and Michael Madowitz of the Center for American Progress (October 2015)

The U.S. middle class is stuck in a rut: The U.S. Census Bureau recently revealed that real median household income failed to grow between 2013 and 2014—the fifth consecutive year in which it either shrank or did not grow. Despite six years of economic growth, the share of prime-age workers with a job fell, and real median household income did not grow past its 2000 level during that expansion. One of the primary reasons for anemic middle-class income growth in both post-2001 recoveries is a retreat in business investment, which has remained well below its historic trend. This is especially perplexing because corporate profits are robust and borrowing costs are historically low…

The Excise Tax on High-Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: Background and Economic Analysis by Sean Lowry, Analyst in Public Finance of the Congressional Research Service (August 2015)

This report gives a brief description of the Cadillac tax. It discusses the legislative origins of the tax and provides an analysis of the revenue effects of the tax. It then analyzes health insurance premium data to provide insights into what share of health insurance plans could exceed the Cadillac tax threshold and how the threshold could affect more health plans over time. This report also analyzes the Cadillac tax using standard economic criteria of efficiency, equity, and administrative simplicity.

An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2015 to 2025 by the Congressional Budget Office (August 2015)

Employers in the manufacturing sector who pay workers more than others enjoy higher productivity, according to a report from the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration. August 2015

The Benefits of Collective Bargaining by The Economic Policy Institute (April 2015)

Wages have been stagnant for a generation despite sizable increases in overall productivity, incomes, and wealth. For instance, our nation’s output of goods and services per hour worked (productivity, net of depreciation) grew 64 percent from 1979 to 2014, while the inflation-adjusted hourly wage of the typical worker rose by just 6 percent. The single largest factor suppressing wage growth for middle-wage workers has been the erosion of collective bargaining.

2014 Continues a 35-Year Trend of Broad-Based Wage Stagnation by Elise Gould, February 19, 2015

Last year was yet another year of poor wage growth for American workers. With few exceptions, real (inflation-adjusted) hourly wages fell or stagnated for workers across the wage spectrum between 2013 and 2014—even for those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

The Reality of the Retirement Crisis by Keith Miller, David Madland, and Christian E. Weller – January 26, 2015

The consequences of growing retirement savings shortfalls could be severe for both American families and the national economy, as a large share of households may be forced to significantly reduce consumption in retirement and will have to rely heavily on their families, charities, and the government for help to make ends meet. Rather than staying in control of their economic lives, millions of Americans may be forced to muddle through their final years partially dependent on others for financial support and to accept a standard of living significantly below that which they had envisioned.

Union Membership and Life Satisfaction by Patrick Flavin and Gregory Shufeldt (October 2014)

The authors uncover evidence that union members are more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and that the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction rivals other common predictors of quality of life. Moreover, the authors find that union membership boosts life satisfaction across demographic groups regardless if someone is rich or poor, male or female, young or old, or has a high or low level of education. These results suggest that organized labor in the United States can have significant implications for the quality of life that citizens experience.




Economic Facts and Figures
: Monthly stats on employment, earnings, trade, prices and more. (DOL, BLS)







afl-cio-logo AFL-CIO General Press Releases on Current Topics: More from the AFL-CIO Press Room

AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch 2016: Check out what the Top 1 Percent is making and how you compare.

Get the Facts: Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (AFL-CIO, 2014)



 The Effect of Rising Inequality on Social Security
by Rebecca Vallas, Christian E. Weller, Rachel West and Jackie Odum – February 10, 2015  The nation’s Social Security system has long been a bedrock of economic security, protecting nearly all American workers and their families in case of retirement, disability, or the death of a primary breadwinner. Over the past three decades, however, rising inequality has increasingly threatened the notion of shared economic security.

Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity by the Center for American Progress (1/15) Today, the ability of free-market democracies to deliver widely shared increases in prosperity is in question as never before. For the first time since the Great Depression, many industrial democracies are failing to raise living standards and provide opportunities for social mobility to a large share of their people. This is an economic problem that threatens to become a problem for the political systems of these nations—and for the idea of democracy itself.

Keep Calm and Muddle Through Ignoring the Retirement Crisis Leaves Middle-Class Americans with Little Economic Control in Their Golden Years: Retirement Crisis Report. (August 2014)

How the Government Subsidizes Wealth Inequality: Renowned French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century thoroughly documents how those at the very top of the income distribution are pulling away from the rest of us. (June 25, 2014)

Unions Make Democracy Work for the Middle Class: A special report from the Center for American Progress Action Funds American Worker Project: How organized labor helps ordinary citizens participate more and have a greater say. (1/2012)



cepr-logoFailing on Two Fronts: The US Labor Market Since 2000 – For almost four decades and by almost all available measures, economic inequality has been increasing in the United States. The long-standing rise in inequality, now joined by an extended period when the economy has been unable to generate jobs for the country’s growing population, constitutes a deep failure on two fronts: steeply rising inequality combined with a poor employment performance. This paper argues that a key driver of both of these developments is conscious economic policy, with a particularly important and under-appreciated role for macroeconomic policy. (CEPR, 1/2015)

Making Jobs Good: This report by John Schmitt and Janelle Jones, evaluates the likely impact of several policies that seek to address job quality, including universal health insurance, a universal retirement system (over and above Social Security), a large increase in college attainment, a large increase in unionization, and gender pay equity. (CEPR, 4/2013)

The Chained CPI: A Painful Cut in Social Security Benefits and a Stealth Tax Hike: A report by Alan Barber and Nicole Woo (CEPR, 12/2012)

Protecting Fundamental Labor Rights: Lessons from Canada for the United States: A report by Kris Warner. (CEPR, 8/2012)

Where Have Good Jobs Gone?: A study that links the decline in “good jobs” with deterioration of worker bargaining power. (8/2012)



cbpp-logoSpecial Series: Economic Recovery Watch





epi-logoThe erosion of collective bargaining has widened the gap between productivity and pay (1/15). Click here to read more on this subject.

Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 Would Save Safety Net Programs Billions and Help Ensure Businesses Are Doing Their Fair Share: More than five years have passed since the federal minimum wage was raised to its current level of $7.25 per hour (10/14).

CEO Pay Continues to Rise as Typical Workers Are Paid Less: The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were prosperous times for top U.S. executives, especially relative to other wage earners and even relative to other very high wage earners. (June 12, 2014)

Economic Indicators: Timely analysis of economic trends affecting IAM members.

The Economic Policy Institute Newsroom

The State of Working America: An ongoing analysis published since 1988 by the Economic Policy Institute. Includes a wide variety of data on family incomes, wages, jobs, unemployment, wealth, and poverty that allow for a clear, unbiased understanding of the economy’s effect on the living standards of working Americans.

Raising America’s Pay – 2014 Report: Why It’s Our Central Economic Policy Challenge: This report is the first in a series from Raising America’s Pay, a multiyear research and public education initiative of the Economic Policy Institute to make wage growth an urgent national policy priority. Raising America’s Pay identifies broad-based wage growth as the central economic challenge of our time—essential to alleviating inequality, expanding the middle class, reducing poverty, generating shared prosperity, and sustaining economic growth. (EPI, 6/4/2014)

The Top 1 Percent’s Share of Income from Wealth Has Been Rising for Decades: Economic Snapshot on Inequality and Poverty. Article by Josh Bivens (EPI, 4/23/2014)

CEO Pay in 2012 Was Extraordinarily High Relative to Typical Workers and Other High Earners (EPI, 6/2013)




wceg-logoArticle Links






The Congressional Budget Office

The Joint Economic Committee of The United States Congress

The U.S. Government Accountability Office

The U.S. Library of Congress – Congressional Research Service

The U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Department of the Treasury

Additional Publications with Reports, Articles and Helpful Information by Topic

The Economy: Blogs

Economic Trends and Forcasts

  • The Future of Work in the Age of Machine – Recent developments in technology, including the proliferation of smart machines, networked communication, and digitization have the potential to transform the economy in groundbreaking ways. But whether this rapid technological change will lead to increased economic prosperity that is broadly shared is far from clear. By Melissa S. Kearney, Director of the Hamilton Project and Brad Hershbein, Visiting Fellow at the Hamilton Project – February 2015
  • For detailed graphs of the latest data on the national economy from the Federal Reserve: Click Here. For a weekly update, click here.
  • A $15 U.S. Minimum Wage: How The Fast-Food Industry Could Adjust Without Shedding Jobs by Robert Pollin and Jeannette Wicks-Lim of the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) University of Massachusetts-Amherst (January 2015)
  • Good News on The Labor Market Front! Unemployment to Steadily Drop Over Next Six Months: “Unemployment should decline by more than 0.1 percent per month over the next six months and to fall below 6.5 percent—the Fed’s unemployment threshold—by February 2014.” A Brookings Blog Post by Regis Barnichon that discusses a monthly update of the Barnichon-Nekarda model. (Barnichon and Nekarda developed a model to forecast unemployment based on labor force flows—the number of workers moving into and out of unemployment each month.) (Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 11/2013)
  • Data Brief – The Low Wage Recovery: Industry Employment and Wages Four Years into the Recovery, 2014 Report: (NELP, 4/2014)
  • Where Poor and Uninsured Americans Live: “The 26 Republican-dominated states not participating in an expansion of Medicaid are home to a disproportionate share of the nation’s poorest uninsured residents. Eight million will be stranded without insurance” (The New York Times, 10/2013)
  • Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All: A report in which the authors, Jacob S. Hacker (Director of ISPS) and Nate Loewentheil (Yale), lay out an alternative to austerity economics, one based on our history, the successful experiences of other nations, and recent currents of research and theoryin economics and allied fields called. They call this model “prosperity economics.” (8/2012)
  • Closing the Jobs Gap: Each month, The Hamilton Project examines the “jobs gap,” which is 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 people who enter the labor force each month.

Globalization and Trade

  • TTIP – Is it a good deal?  Since mid-2013, the United States and the European Union have been negotiating a so-called free trade agreement, by now labeled “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” or TTIP in short. (Policy note by Werner Raza, Austrian Foundation for Development Research (ÖFSE); Lance Taylor, The New School for Social Research; Bernhard Tröster, (ÖFSE); and Rudi von Arnim, University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Published by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis – December 2014)


National Economic Indicators

Pension Retirement & Security Issues

      • Explaining the Decline in the Offer Rate of Employer Retirement Plans Between 2001-2012: Workplace retirement plans (Defined Contribution and Defined Benefits) help workers save for retirement conveniently, consistently, and automatically. But retirement account offer rates are steadily declining. Between 2001-2003 and 2010-2012, the retirement plan offer rate dropped from 63% to 55%. Article by Teresa Ghilarducci and Joelle Saad-Lessler (SCHWARTZ CENTER FOR ECONOMIC POLICY ANALYSIS – July 2014)

Right to Work (for less)