Pennsylvania

PA Economic Development Programs Rank 40th on Job Creation, Job Quality Standards

A blog post originally published at Third and State.

A new national study sizing up hundreds of state-level tax credit, cash grant and other economic development subsidies has some bad news for Pennsylvania.

The commonwealth scored a D and ranked 40th place among the states in the Good Jobs First report, Money for Something: Job Creation and Job Quality Standards in State Economic Development Subsidy Programs. Some of the five Pennsylvania programs reviewed by researchers lack job creation requirements and wage standards for workers at subsidized companies. None of the programs required companies receiving state tax dollars to provide health benefits to workers in jobs or facilities funded by the subsidy.

Researchers looked at Pennsylvania's Film Production Tax Credit, Job Creation Tax Credit, Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) Program, Opportunity Grant Program, and Research and Development Tax Credit. Combined, these programs cost state taxpayers $181 million a year.

Learn more about the Pennsylvania findings here.

The Good Jobs First study confirms the Keystone Research Center’s 2010 study which found that nine major Pennsylvania business subsidy programs had low or no job quality standards.

Length of Unemployment at All Time High

A blog post by Sean Brandon, originally published at Third and State.

While the U.S. unemployment rate fell to a 32-month low of 8.6% in November, the average duration of joblessness hit an all-time high — 40.9 weeks. This number has more than doubled since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007. Nevertheless, it should come as no surprise amid lingering unemployment. There are four job seekers for every job opening these days.

With long-term unemployment at its historic worst, Congress must decide whether or not to continue federally-funded extended unemployment insurance benefits that are scheduled to begin phasing out at the end of this month

Should Congress fail to act, 281,000 jobless Pennsylvanians will lose their unemployment benefits between December and June, with the bulk of benefits expiring in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

This should concern each and every taxpayer because unemployment insurance serves two vital purposes.

First, these benefits go to individuals and families who have suffered through the longest and deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. As a society, the more fortunate have a moral obligation to help the less fortunate in their time of need. The money is being spent on necessities like rent, utilities, food, and clothing — not Cadillacs.

Don't Weaken PA's Oversight of Health Insurance Rate Hikes

Many states have taken steps to ensure that there is a meaningful review of proposed health insurance rate increases for small businesses and individuals.

Pennsylvania, however, is headed in the opposite direction with legislation in the House and Senate that would keep more consumers in the dark and undermine the state’s ability to review most rate hikes.

House Bill 1983 and Senate Bill 1336 would extend rate review to insurance providers that currently escape any scrutiny, but they also reduce the Insurance Department’s authority to review and disapprove rates. The bill would give insurers license to raise individual and small business rates by 9.99% annually without any review at all. Small employers already struggling from the recession cannot afford continual rate increases and deserve to have better protection than this bill affords.

You can get more details in a memo that Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Sharon Ward wrote to editors and reporters today.

Under current state law, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department has some authority to review rate increases. It is not a perfect system, but the Department has used it effectively to perform rigorous reviews of numerous rate proposals. According to a recent Government Accounting Office study, in 2010, 37% of rate filings were reduced or withdrawn after Insurance Department review, ranking Pennsylvania 9th in the nation.

Instead of curtailing the Department’s authority, lawmakers should improve upon it with greater transparency, citizen input and meaningful review of all rate proposals.

PA Liquor Privatization Findings Too Good to Be True

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

The privatization of Pennsylvania's wine and spirits shops will not do much for state revenues but will usher in alcohol-related social problems.

Those were the key takeaways offered by researchers working with the Keystone Research Center at hearings of the Pennsylvania House Liquor Control Committee last week in Philadelphia.

University of Michigan researcher Roland Zullo, who has worked with Keystone on privatization issues, presented the results of his analysis of a pro-privatization study commissioned by Governor Tom Corbett's Budget Office. As Zullo's written testimony shows, the study, performed by Public Finance Management (PFM), was very open about its assignment: show how privatization will maintain annual wine and spirits revenue for the state, while maximizing upfront fees from privatizing.

As Roland shows, this is an impossible assignment. Consequently, PFM was forced to make implausible and incompatible assumptions. To maintain revenue neutrality, PFM assumed very high taxes on wine and spirits, a high annual fee from franchisees, and low price markups by private wholesalers and retailers.

These same assumptions, however, would make wine and spirits franchises a dud as a business opportunity - companies would make low profits or lose money, and they sure won't give the state a big upfront check for the right to lose money. As Roland said, "I can't square this circle."

How Much Does Child Poverty Cost the Economy?

A blog post by Chris Lilienthal, originally published at Third and State.

At a conference this week, a presenter posed an important question that doesn't get asked very often: How much does child poverty cost our economy?

Based on an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey data, researchers estimated that child poverty costs the nation $500 billion annually in foregone earnings, involvement in crime, and the costs associated with poor health outcomes. In Pennsylvania, the cost is $17.5 billion annually, based on the 2006 data showing 465,000 (or 17%) of children living in poverty.

In effect, this is money that would accrue to the U.S. and Pennsylvania economies if we took steps now to end child poverty once and for all, such as investing in education, health care and other vital family needs. And with poverty rates higher today in the wake of the recession, the benefits of doing so would be that much greater.

We have long grappled with the social costs of poverty and what it means for families across Pennsylvania and the nation. It's also critical to look at poverty as a huge economic and jobs issue.

Lori Pfingst of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, who took the national data and broke it down by state, explains:

Using Temporary Workers to Forecast the PA Economy

A blog post by Sean Brandon, originally published at Third and State.

The employment services industry provides a variety of human resources services, including most notably supplying temporary workers to other businesses. Because of the unique characteristics of this industry, economists often use its job market trends as an economic forecasting tool. The reason is simple: When the economy starts to slide, the first workers to go are usually the temporary employees, but when the economy begins to pick up, businesses will hire temporary workers first.

Historically, the employment services industry has proved a reliable indicator of broader job market trends. Let’s consider the Great Recession as an example. In the past five years, the height of employment (a 12-month moving average of not-seasonally-adjusted employment data) in the employment services industry in Pennsylvania was in January 2008, just after the recession began. The employment services industry then shed 23,517 jobs before it reached its low point in December 2009.

On the other hand, total nonfarm employment in Pennsylvania did not reach its peak until September 2008, eight months after employment services peaked. Furthermore, total nonfarm employment did not begin to recover until April 2010, after employment services had seen steady growth for four months.

In the case of both the recession and the recovery, the employment pattern in the employment services industry foreshadowed what was going to happen to Pennsylvania’s job market as a whole.

So what are the statistics in Pennsylvania’s employment services industry suggesting now?

A $56 million 'Oops': PA Revenue Department Updates Marcellus Shale Tax Estimates

A blog post by Michael Wood, originally published at Third and State.

Tim Puko at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review uncovered a $56 million mistake in the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue's reporting of personal income tax (PIT) collections attributed to Marcellus Shale drilling for last year.

Back in May, the Department estimated that taxable Marcellus Shale royalties generated $102.7 million in PIT collections in 2010. Now the Department says that figure is a tad lower — $46.2 million, a decrease of $56.5 million or over 55% from what was reported six months ago. To quote Britney Spears, "Oops!"

How does this happen? By rushing too fast and using incomplete data to make a policy point, as I noted in the Tribune-Review story. This type of cheerleading report for a single industry is highly unusual for the Department of Revenue. There isn't a report of taxes paid by snack food manufacturers, steel producers, or even dairy farms.

The updated Marcellus tax data included another interesting tidbit — how little is paid in PIT from income flowing through to oil and gas company owners. In 2009, the Department reports $9.9 million in PIT from these taxpayers.

Job Growth Returns to PA but Challenges Still Loom

A shortened version of a blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reported Thursday that the number of jobs in the commonwealth grew by 13,800 in October, as the unemployment rate fell slightly to 8.1%. A key factor in October's relatively good performance was a pause in public-sector job losses.

So the good news is we had one positive month; the bad news is unless we have more months like October, the labor market is more or less stuck in neutral. Back in January, we estimated that the jobs deficit in Pennsylvania was 257,000 jobs (this is the number of jobs Pennsylvania needs to get back to full employment). The October jobs deficit is just over 237,000 jobs. In other words, the pace of job growth is such that we are back to full employment in more than eight and half years.

Read more in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and check out my statement on the latest jobs report.

It Is an Undeniable Fact that I Am an Uber Responsible Private-Sector Labor Market Analysis Machine

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

A while back the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry released a new version of its Marcellus Shale Fast Facts, which prompted a statement from Kathryn Klaber of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC):

This new data further reinforces the undeniable fact that responsible American natural gas production is an unmatched private sector job creation machine.

So let's take a look at what the numbers say. Figure 1 presents on the left axis total employment in the Marcellus core industries by quarter from the fourth quarter of 2007 to first quarter of 2011 (the most recent data available).

On the right axis, the percent change from the previous quarter in total employment in that sector (the red line).

On a quarterly basis, employment growth in this sector is volatile, ranging from negative 5% in the first quarter of 2009 to an increase of more than 20% in the second quarter of 2010.

Between the first quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011, the Marcellus core created 7,328 jobs. Total nonfarm employment over the same period increased by just over 87,000 jobs.

What is Pat Toomey Doing? Inequality and America's Future

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

Let me connect three dots for you. Draw your own conclusions about the impact of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey’s proposal in the super committee to reduce the federal deficit.

Dot Number 1 — The American middle class is shrinking: The New York Times reports this morning that the middle class is shrinking in America — based on where people live.  In 2007, the latest year studied, 44% of families lived in middle-income neighborhoods, down from 65 percent of families in 1970. A third of families lived in very high-income or poor neighborhoods now, up from just 15 percent of families in 1970. The case example used to illustrate this national trend — the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Giving Away the Store: A Marcellus Shale Fact Check

The Pennsylvania Legislature is debating a Marcellus Shale impact fee today, but unfortunately both the House and Senate appear to be playing a game of limbo to see how low they can go on a drilling fee rate.

Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed drilling impact fee, contained in HB 1950, would collect $160,000 over the 50-year life of an average Marcellus Shale gas well, the equivalent of a 1% rate. Senator Joseph Scarnati’s SB 1100, as amended on November 14, would raise $360,000 over the life of an average well, the equivalent of 2.2%.

A comparable well in Texas would raise $878,500 – five times more than Governor Corbett’s plan and nearly two-and-a-half times more than SB 1100. Even an industry-supported proposal from August 2010 would collect more than these plans.

Other drilling tax and fee plans, proposed by Representatives Tom Murt and Gene DiGirolamo and Representative Marguerite Quinn, would put Pennsylvania more in line with other energy-rich states, assessing effective rates between 4.4% and 4.6% over the life of an average well. The average Marcellus Shale gas well in Pennsylvania is projected to generate $16 million over its life.

Check out the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's recent fact check on the Marcellus Shale tax and fee plans that are now before the General Assembly.

Putting the Brakes on Pennsylvania’s Recovery

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

Public-sector job losses are putting the brakes on Pennsylvania’s economic recovery, endangering private-sector job gains

Those are the findings in a new Keystone Research Center policy brief that I co-authored with Mark Price. (You can read the press release here.)

Over the last year, Pennsylvania has lost 21,000 public-sector jobs, including some 13,000 education jobs. The impact is being felt well beyond the public sector, slowing the pace of private-sector job growth as the ripple effects of out-of-work teachers and laid-off government workers take a toll on the broader economy.

As a result of these public-sector job losses, Pennsylvania is squandering a job growth advantage that it enjoyed over other states coming out of the recession.

Between September 2009 and September 2010, the commonwealth ranked fourth among the states in the number of jobs created and seventh by job growth percentage. During the five months between April and September 2011, however, Pennsylvania’s job growth ranked among the bottom 10 states.

Have You No Shame, Sir (Plus Mary)?

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

The Central Pennsylvania Business Journal this week published the list of the highest-paid 10 executives in the region in 2010. Nine of these executives are men. The tenth was Mary F. Sammons, the former Chairman and CEO of Rite Aid.

Some of the salary information in The Business Journal is not new. (See, for example, the CEO pay list in Table A1, starting on page 21 of The State of Working Pennsylvania 2011.) What is new is that The Business Journal also published these executives’ pay in 2009, allowing us to look at the change in pay from 2009 to 2010 for a group of Pennsylvania executives. (Earlier, we only had information on change in executive pay from 2009 to 2010 for U.S. CEOs.)

Here’s what we found. The dollar increase in pay for these executives ranged from $2.55 million for Michael Lockhart of Armstrong World Industries to less than a million dollars (about $900,000) for Neil Shah, the President and COO of Hersha Hospitality Trust. The average increase was $1.64 million.

The percent increase in pay ranged from a mere 14% for Peter Carlino, Chairman and CEO of Penn National Gaming Incorporated, to nearly 100% for John Standley, the current President and CEO of Rite Aid.

33 Years? A Bleak Employment Outlook

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

More or less in line with the consensus forecast, the U.S. Labor Department reported last Friday that U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew in October by 80,000 and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 9%. This news comes a week after the Commerce Department reported that Gross Domestic Product (GPD) grew 2.5% in the third quarter of this year.

Both reports represent a relative improvement over previous trends, but as Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) notes:

At this pace it would take more than 33 years to return to the pre-recession rates of unemployment.

The figure below by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute plots the contraction in GDP during the Great Recession compared to the 1990 and 2001 recessions and the pace of growth in the recoveries that followed.  As you can see in the figure, the pace of growth in this recovery does lag somewhat the two previous recoveries. But as Dean's startling estimate reveals, the larger problem is how deep the recession was.

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