Economist challenges common beliefs about U.S. labor market

MIDDLEBURY — Julie L. Hotchkiss, research economist and senior policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, will deliver the 2015 DK Smith ’42 Economics Lecture, titled “Can We Really Believe Everything We Read about the U.S. Labor Market?” on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 4:30 p.m. at Middlebury College’s Twilight Auditorium.
Some in the popular press would have Americans believe that the U.S. labor market is in great peril. “Recovery has Created Far More Low-wage Jobs than Better-paid ones” (New York Times, 2014); “Most new jobs have been part-time since Obamacare became law” (Politifact, 2013); “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment” (Jim Clifton, CEO Gallup, 2015); “It’s too bad we’re not producing more (college graduates)” (Bill Gates, 2015); “The Shrinking U.S. Labor Force is Stifling Economic Growth” (The Motley Fool, 2013). Hotchkiss challenges these and other claims, presenting evidence that will allow the audience to put the current U.S. labor market into perspective.
The fact is that the unemployment rate has fallen to a level reminiscent of other recovery periods, and this drop in the number of unemployed has indeed been the result of employment growth, rather than, “increasing number of … discouraged workers,” (The Guardian, 2015). In addition, employment growth since the Great Recession has in fact been dominated by high-wage, full-time jobs, rather than “low wage jobs … taking over the American economy” (Daily Kos, 2015). Furthermore, fears that “the United States won’t have enough college graduates to fill the available jobs” (UNC President Tom Ross, 2015) are not realistic.
However, the ongoing decline in labor force growth is one factor that has the potential to derail the current labor market progress. Labor force growth has been slowing for decades and is not merely a by-product of the Great Recession or a consequence of retiring Baby Boomers, although these two events have contributed to its slow down. Since economic growth is the single most important determinant for keeping the labor market on track, and a growing labor force is necessary to fuel that economic growth, Hotchkiss lays out a number of policy options for attacking persistent declines in labor force growth.
Hotchkiss has published her research in various scholarly journals, including Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Economic Development and Cultural Change, the Review of Economics and Statistics, and the American Economic Review. She is a member of the American Economic Association, the Southern Economic Association, the Society of Labor Economists, and the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. She has served as a coeditor for the Southern Economic Journal and the Eastern Economic Journal, on the board of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, and is currently second vice president of the Southern Economic Association.
Hotchkiss is a native of Los Angeles. She received bachelor of arts degrees in economics and French from Willamette University. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in economics at Cornell University.

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