This week in the War on Workers: Professor fights for-profit teacher licensing, loses her job

Rotten apple

Last spring, student teachers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst refused to participate in a pilot teacher licensing program that would replace real-life classroom observation with a take-home test and edited videos of the prospective teacher in the classroom. The new teacher licensing would be done for profit by testing company Pearson, and 67 of the 68 student teachers training for middle school and high school teaching at UMass said no. Within weeks, the director of the secondary-teacher education program who had trained them and had spoken out against the new licensing system got a letter saying her contract wouldn’t be renewed when it expired a year later.

The New York Times‘ Michael Winerip, who last spring wrote about the 67 students’ refusal to film themselves for licensing by Pearson, writes now of Barbara Madeloni that:

Ms. Madeloni is 55 and has been overseeing the university’s program to train middle and high school teachers for nine years. During that time, she has repeatedly been rated “outstanding.” (“We applaud Dr. Madeloni for her work,” read her December 2011 evaluation.) […]

“They’ve been angry at me for a long time, but I believe the article pushed them over the edge,” she said this week. “For several years this has been building inside me, this reliance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers.

“It’s so degrading,” she said. “For a long time I decided not to fight it. I wouldn’t have been able to do this at 40. I don’t think I could have stayed as grounded. You have to be able to manage people saying awful, awful things.”

The university administration insists the decision not to renew Madeloni’s contract was completely unrelated to her anti-standardization activism and the publicity that resulted. (It’s always a coincidence!) Ironically, the way the administration was able to get rid of her was to convert her position into a tenure-track one—so the next person hired to fill this role will be able to speak up from a less vulnerable position. But how much do you want to bet that they do their best to hire someone who’ll be complacent?

(Continue reading below the fold.)

Truthers. Birthers. We’re going to need a name for the latest conspiracy-mongers: on job statistics

Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers
@jack_welch via Twitterrific

Jack Welch’s secretary says the former chairman and CEO of General Electric is in meetings for the rest of the day and unavailable to discuss his Tweets.

In regards to today’s Jobs report—I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here……
@AllenWest via web

I don’t think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect.
@conncarroll via web

The extremely bad news is that I don’t believe a word of the unemployment rate. Sad. The numbers are too illogical and don’t make sense.
@stevelemois via TweetDeck

umm anyone else thing the jobs numbers are rigged? A .3% drop while only adding 114K jobs? Something smells rotten.
@Jakeninety8 via TweetDeck

And apparently somebody has been making a few phone calls:

Jim Cramer: “I have people calling for my job” because I said I believe the BLS numbers.
@edshow via Twitter for iPhone

Knowing how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates its numbers, including the fact that a survey of business establishments and of households are done each month, can go a long way toward understanding how there can be seeming anomalies in the results, especially in one month. Understanding math can help, too. Of course, some people don’t care about how the numbers are actually derived.

Ezra Klein gets it exactly right:

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The data was not, as Jack Welch suggested in a now-infamous tweet, manipulated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set up to ensure the White House has no ability to influence it. As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, “anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled.” Plus, if the White House somehow was manipulating the data, don’t you think they would have made the payroll number look a bit better than 114,000? No one would have batted an eye at 160,000. […]

The number could, of course, be wrong. The household survey is, well, a survey, which means it’s open to error. But the internals back it up. The number saying they had jobs increased by about 800,000. That seems high, but it’s counting 582,000 who say they got part-time jobs.

There are plenty of issues to discuss in terms of jobs. Everybody agrees we need a lot more of them. We need to generate them faster. They need to pay better than many of them do. We need to convert millions of part-time jobs into full-time jobs because those part-timers NEED full-time jobs. The data behind those needs can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, uncooked, and not tied to partisan motivation. Just because a report that is mostly positive comes out before an election doesn’t change that.

But the wackos and the Obama haters are always looking for handholds from which they can spew their nonsense and lies. So, expect this latest conspiracy bullshit to take hold and be amplified by the usual media suspects.


Government reports increase of 114,000 jobs, official jobless rate drops to 7.8%, U6 is 14.7%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the economy created 104,000 new seasonally adjusted private jobs in September. Governments at all levels added 10,000 new jobs, for a net gain of 114,000. The official unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent. That is the lowest unemployment rate since President Obama took office in January 2009.

Revisions changed previously reported growth in payroll employment in July from 141,000 to 181,000 and in August from 96,000 to 142,000. The government counted 12.1 million Americans as unemployed, a drop of 456,000 over August.

An alternative measure of unemployment (labeled U6) counts part-time workers who want full-time jobs and some but not all Americans who want jobs but have stopping looking for one. The number of part-timers who want full-time jobs rose from 8 million to 8.6 million in September. That rate remained at 14.7 percent. Add together unemployed workers, underemployed workers and Americans who are not included in the work force but say they want a job, and the total unemployed and underemployed population remained at 27.4 million Americans.

On Wednesday, TrimTabs Investment Research estimated that 210,000 new jobs had been created in September. The firm uses daily tax deposits to calculate the change in payrolls. Some believe its higher numbers are more accurate, arguing that BLS misses many of the small companies that produce most jobs. Also on Wednesday, the payroll services company Automated Data Processing reported an estimated 162,000 new private jobs had been added in September.

In the past 18 months, ADP has reported more jobs eight times and BLS had reported more jobs 10 times. The closest they’ve been in that period was 6,000 in October 2011; the farthest apart, 123,000 in June 2012.

ADP bases its report on the payrolls it processes for some 430,000 businesses covering about 24 million employees. [Methodology here.] BLS bases its report on its Current Employment Statistics survey of 410,000 worksites. [Methodology here.] (You can read more about the ADP survey in my recent post.)

The number of Americans unemployed for six months or more fell from 5.0 million to 4.8 million.  

The civilian labor force participation ratio rose to 63.6 percent; the employment-population ratio rose from 58.3 to 58.7 percent.

The BLS jobs report is the product of a pair of surveys, one of more than 400,000 business establishments called Current Employment Statistics, and one called the Current Population Survey, which questions 60,000 householders. The establishment survey determines how many new jobs were added, always calculated on a seasonally adjusted basis. The CPS provides data that determine the official “headline” unemployment rate, also known as “U3.” That’s the number which is now 7.8 percent.

The CPS showed that 418,000 Americans joined the civilian work force in September and there were 873,000 more Americans employed than the month before. The differences between the CES and CPS are often quite large, as is the case this month.


Here’s what the job growth numbers have looked like for August in the most recent 10 years:

September 2003: + 109,000
September 2004: + 161,000  
September 2005: +  66,000
September 2006: + 157,000
September 2007: +  73,000
September 2008: – 432,000
September 2009: – 199,000  
September 2010: –   27,000
September 2011: + 202,000
September 2012: + 114,000

Among other changes in today’s job report:

Health care: +44,000
Transportion and warehousing: + 17,000  
Manufacturing: -16,000
• The average workweek (for production and non-supervisory workers) rose to 34.5 hours.
• Average manufacturing hours rose to 40.6.
• The average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose seven cents to $23.58.

Workers told to write Romney checks by coal CEO who made miners serve as Romney backdrop

In a screenshot from a Mitt Romney ad, Romney stands in front of coal miners whose boss had made attendance at Romney's speech mandatory and unpaid.

The coal miners forced to serve as an unpaid backdrop for a Mitt Romney campaign appearance aren’t the only Murray Energy employees who have to support their boss’s favored Republican candidates, it turns out. Salaried workers, who don’t make such picturesque, coal-covered backdrops, but who earn more money, are expected to write checks and attend the boss’s political fundraisers. The pressure is not subtle, Alec MacGillis reports:

Internal Murray documents show just how upset Murray becomes when employees fail to join the giving. In missives, he cajoles employees to attend fund-raisers and scolds them when they or their subordinates do not. In cases of low participation, reminders from his lieutenants have included tables or spreadsheets showing how each of the eleven Murray subsidiaries was performing. And at least one note came with a list of names of employees who had not yet given. “What is so difficult about asking a well-paid, salaried employee to give us three hours of his/her time every two months?” Murray writes in a March 2012 letter. “We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts.” He concludes: “I do not recall ever seeing the attached list of employees . . . at one of our fund-raisers.”

That’s yielded big money for Republican candidates—more than $2 million in recent years, and $120,000 to Romney. But not everyone contributing is doing so willingly, and some feel that bonuses are at stake:

At the time of hiring, supervisors tell employees that they are expected to contribute to the company PAC by automatic payroll deduction—typically 1 percent of their salary, a level confirmed by a 2008 letter to employees from the PAC’s treasurer. (That letter also assures employees that they would not be “disadvantaged” by not giving.) Employees are given a form to sign, explaining that the giving is voluntary.

Riiight … and if you were told by your supervisor that you were expected to give money as part of your new job, how voluntary would you feel that was, no matter what the piece of paper said? Murray Energy’s lawyer says it’s all done legally, it’s just that CEO Bob Murray is personally enthusiastic about the candidates, and absolutely no bonuses are on the line:

McKown says the two sources who suggest generous employees get bigger bonuses are just wrong. “It’s Mr. Murray’s view of what the employee’s contribution was to the company that month,” he says.

I mean, why would you suspect illegal pressure or reimbursement-by-bonus just because the CEO who sends around memos saying it’s an insult when employees don’t give to his candidates is the same CEO who makes monthly bonus decisions?

But Mitt Romney is only too happy to cash those checks, just as he stood in front of miners who’d had the opportunity to earn their pay taken from them in order to be forced to listen to Romney and told them they had a great boss.

ADP reports 162,000 new private jobs were created in September

Automated Data Processing reported Wednesday morning a seasonally adjusted 162,000 new private jobs were created in September. A consensus of economic and business experts surveyed by Bloomberg earlier this week had estimated that ADP would report 140,000 new jobs. The number of jobs for August was revised to 189,000. ADP only reports gains or losses in private-sector jobs.

The question today is whether the firm has again set everyone up for disappointment when the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report comes out on Friday. That’s been the way of things for the past six months.

In August, ADP reported that the economy had produced a seasonally adjusted total of 201,000 new private jobs (now revised to 189,000, as noted). But the BLS reported that only 103,000 private jobs had been created, with lay-offs of 7,000 in the public sector, for a net gain of only 96,000. That is not quite enough to keep up with monthly additions to the working-age population.

ADP bases its report on the payrolls it processes for some 430,000 businesses covering about 24 million employees. [Methodology here.] BLS bases its report on its Current Employment Statistics survey of 410,000 worksites. [Methodology here.]

Over the past six months ending in August, the BLS has reported 629,000 new seasonally adjusted private-sector jobs have been created, with 49,000 lay-offs in the public sector. The ADP, on the other hand, has reported the creation of 978,000 new private-sector jobs, also seasonally adjusted. A huge disparity.

However, if you take into account the past 18 months, it’s another story. For the eight months from March-October 2011, the BLS reported more private-sector jobs than ADP. In fact, 388,000 more. This was followed by a four-month “transition” in which ADP reported more jobs one month and the BLS reported more the next. Since March of this year, ADP has reported more.

For the entire 18-month period, ADP has reported a gain of 2.887 million new private jobs. BLS has reported 2.917 million new jobs. Remarkably close. Especially when compared with often large differences between them each month.

But there’s a lump in the pudding. Last week, the BLS provided a preliminary reading on its annual “benchmark revisions.” That is, just as it does every year at this time, it gave people a heads up about its reanalysis of data it had gathered in the 12-month period ending in March 2012.

In the reanalysis the bureau found 453,000 additional private-sector jobs had been created between April 2011 and March 2012 that it didn’t catch the first time. It also found 67,000 more government lay-offs, for a net gain of 386,000 jobs not counted previously. That is, as noted, a preliminary figure; the final won’t be added until February. But the final is usually very close to the pre-announcement.

So, when those 453,000 private-secgtor jobs are added to the BLS’s total over the 18-month period from March 2011-August 2012, it comes out to 3.37 million new private jobs.

When you subtract the 282,000 lost government jobs, the difference between the BLS and ADP numbers for the past year and a half is 201,000 jobs.

You might be tempted to ask, if the BLS undercounted for the 12 months before March, then why shouldn’t we assume it is still doing so? That’s possible. But, remember, this benchmark revision is an annual affair. Last year, the bureau reported that 366,000 fewer jobs had been created from April 2010 through March 2011.

All these numbers and the differences between the two sources may make your eyes water a bit. But while they are an (obviously) imperfect tool, they do serve an important purpose in showing us what direction we’re headed and the general speed we’re moving. They don’t, however, answer some questions that really matter, among them being, how good are these jobs and what can (and will) be done politically to generate more of them faster starting Nov. 7?

Study: Dream Act would create 1.4 million new jobs, add $329 billion to economy by 2030

DREAM Act student supporters marching with banner

An act legalizing some 2.1 million undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children would give a major boost to the economy, according to a new study from the Center for American Progress and the Partnership for a New American Economy. Passing the DREAM Act would, the authors conclude, generate 1.4 million jobs and add $329 billion to the economy. It would also generate some $10.2 billion in additional state and federal tax revenue from households and businesses. Over two decades, the DREAMer population would earn 19 percent more than without passage of the act.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, first introduced in 2001, would provide a path to legal status for eligible young people. Until recently, they were treated the same as unauthorized immigrants who came to United States as adults, meaning that they were frequently deported even if they were toddlers when they arrived here and Americans in all but documentation.

Under an executive order President Obama announced in June, young immigrants who have been here for five years or more are no longer being deported. But this is only a temporary measure and, as the president has said, it is not “amnesty” or a path to citizenship as passage the DREAM Act would be. Republicans initially howled at the president’s move, but they have toned it down as election day nears, quite possibly for fear they will, as a party, lose even more of the Latino vote than they already have.

Gaining legal status alone would give DREAMers access to better jobs than those typically available to undocumented immigrants. But, in addition, the DREAM Act would have a strong economic impact because it would spur eligible immigrants to finish high school and take at least some college courses or join the military. This would give them the education and skills to earn more money.

The CAP study’s authors, Juan Carlos Guzmán and Raúl C. Jara, note:

In detailing the ways in which passage of the DREAM Act will add significant value, jobs, and tax revenue to the American economy, it is important to note that the benefits would not simply be a one-time addition but instead unfold over time, with the economic benefits growing larger as time goes on. This upward trajectory comes because eligible DREAMers will have a staggered entrance into the workforce, with many eligible youth still in elementary or secondary school at the time of passage.[…]

One important caveat is necessary: This study looks solely at the economic benefits from passing the DREAM Act, and not any costs that may be incurred. But we believe future costs from the DREAM Act will be limited.

The report includes an interactive rollover map showing differences between gains in all 50 states and a full set of the data in the report. The impact varies widely from state to state because the age and demographics of the DREAMers and foreign-born individuals in each state.

Take Colorado, for instance: 44,000 DREAMers; 22,459 new jobs; $5.5 billion added to the economy; $169 million in new tax revenue.

Compare that with Ohio: 16,500 DREAMers; 6,906 new jobs; $1.4 billion added to the economy; $41 million in new tax revenue.

While the DREAM Act obviously would have significant benefits for individuals, it works for the whole country as well. Opposition reflects the short-sighted view that encouraging these young people will steal benefits that would otherwise only be available to Americans born here. That rejection of a sensible act of straightforward justice cuts against everything we know to be true in the long immigrant history of the United States.