Saturday, January 1, 2011


A new post by Mark Thoma fits in, I think, with recent thoughts about minimum wage. It is true that, as the time of unemployment increases, some workers will find jobs that are vastly inferior (but way better than nothing). This suggests that the unemployment rate will become a less and less reliable marker of the strength of the economy.

Now, it might be true that some of this could be an unrealistic expectation of compensation on the part of workers who had unusually good jobs during the past expansion. But I note that the financial industry (apparently where the recession began) is not necessarily hurting:

"Wall Street earned $21.4 billion during the first three quarters of 2010," Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said.

"While much less than last year's record of $61.4 billion, which was fueled by federal assistance, the securities industry is on track in 2010 for the second-highest level of profitability on record," he said.

So I think we should be sceptics about narratives that include the need for "shared sacrifice" from all segments of society. I do note that the idea that last year's record profits where fuelled by government assistance ironic given the concerns over matters like pay forK-12 teachers. I don't have a good road map forward except to note that simple solutions and metrics seem unlikely to be helpful under these conditions.

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