The part-time blues: White collar versus blue collar jobs

Part-time work has seen a considerable swing since the recession (see earlier Roundup post). Different types of workers also saw varying fluctuations in part-time work. Take blue collar versus white collar workers, for example.

The Current Population Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, categorizes 11 major occupations by the color of their collar: Two are white collar and nine are blue collar (see table, at bottom). As a result, blue collar jobs currently make up a little more than 70 percent of all part-time jobs (see Chart 1).

Part-time B&W collar CH1

Roughly one-quarter of all blue collar jobs are part time, a ratio that changed modestly during the recession, but has been declining (see Chart 2). Levels of “part-time jobs for economic reasons”—a category described by the CPS as “involuntary”—are also much higher as a share of the labor force compared with white collar positions (see Chart 3).

 The share of blue collar workers at part-time jobs involuntarily rose steeply during the recession and remained quite elevated until last year, when levels began to fall quite rapidly and are now near prerecession levels. A similar pattern exists for the share of white collar workers who are part time involuntarily, although this share is still somewhat elevated.

Look for future fedgazette Roundup blog posts on more part-time job trends in Ninth District states, as well as an in-depth look at Ninth District job growth since the recession in the July issue of the fedgazette.

Part-time B&W collar CH2-3
   Part-time B&W collar TABLE

 

Ninth District Beige Book: Signs of moderate economic growth in spring

Since early April, some key sectors in the Ninth District economy have varied, but overall growth has been moderate. Home sales and prices increased at a strong rate, although residential construction remained flat. Energy and mining activity continued to decline, contributing to a slowdown in spending and employment in the energy-producing region of western North Dakota and eastern Montana. While prices were relatively stable and wage increases remained mild, some signs of increased wage pressures appeared.

Residential real estate and consumer spending grew

Residential real estate activity showed strong increases in many parts of the Ninth District during April compared with a year earlier. For example, in western Wisconsin, home sales increased 25 percent and the median sales price rose 12 percent, while in Minnesota, home sales were up 20 percent with the median sales price up 12 percent. Home sales were buoyed in part by a relatively mild spring in many parts of the district. Meanwhile, residential construction was flat overall.

Retail and tourism spending also contributed to positive economic growth. According to a recent survey of district business leaders conducted by the Minneapolis Fed, 40 percent of respondents noted that retail spending increased over the past three months, while 12 percent reported that sales had decreased. An auto dealers association expects Minnesota vehicle sales in 2015 to exceed last year’s levels. Tourism activity was solid in many parts of the district in part due to seasonably warm weather. A travel agency in Minnesota noted that leisure travel bookings for March and April were up over 10 percent.

Meanwhile, manufacturing activity was level overall in April and May. The impact of the recent increase in the exchange value of the dollar likely had an effect on district manufacturers, as 29 percent of manufacturer respondents to the district business-leader survey reported that the dollar’s rise had decreased sales, though most reported that sales had not changed. “Increased value of the dollar has hurt our bottom line because of lower revenue from outside the U.S. on same volume,” commented a respondent. An index of manufacturing activity by Creighton University increased in April from the previous month in Minnesota and South Dakota; the index fell in North Dakota, but was at levels consistent with slight growth in all three states.

Natural resources sectors were slow

Natural resources sectors, including agriculture, energy and mining, had a depressing effect on the district economy. While progress in crop planting was well ahead of its five-year average and drought conditions were relieved by recent rains in several areas, the Minneapolis Fed’s first-quarter (April) survey of agricultural credit conditions showed that 79 percent of respondents said farm incomes fell in the previous three months, with a similar outlook for the second quarter. The avian flu has impacted a number of poultry producers and is expected to cost Minnesota turkey producers more than $300 million.

In the energy-producing area of the district, the drilling rig count dropped to 79 in mid-May, all in North Dakota (no rigs were active in Montana), down from almost 200 in September 2014. The continued decline in drilling activity led to layoffs of oilfield workers and reduced demand for support services. Nevertheless, oil production levels and transportation remained relatively high, albeit down from record levels set in December. The slowdown in oil drilling made its way to Wisconsin and Minnesota, where output at mines producing sand for hydraulic fracturing was expected to decline this year and one facility was idled. However, the overall economic impact of the reduction in oil and gas drilling has remained relatively contained to the energy-producing area.

Some tightening in labor markets and signs of wage pressures

As the district continued to show signs of moderate economic growth, hiring increased on balance and labor markets tightened further. According to a recent ad hoc survey by the Minneapolis Fed, 40 percent of respondents said their ability to retain employees has become harder over the past 12 months, while just 3 percent said it has become easier. “We are seeing a lot of employee turnover, as most see this as the best way to impact salary and opportunity,” noted a respondent to the professional business services survey. A Minnesota manufacturers survey found that hiring plans for the upcoming year are similar to a year ago. However, labor markets softened in the energy-producing area of the district; online job openings were down 23 percent in April compared with a year earlier in the North Dakota oil patch (see Chart 1).

Prices were relatively stable, except for a recent increase in gasoline prices. Wage increases remained mild in April and May, with some instances of increased wage pressures. For example, about a quarter of respondents to the aforementioned ad hoc survey were raising starting pay for most job categories to attract new hires (see Chart 2). Three health care systems in Minnesota have agreed to a minimum wage of $15 per hour under recent contract agreements.

Beige Book June 2015 -- 6-12-15

Part-time work falling since recession

There has been a fair amount of angst over the uptick in part-time jobs during and immediately after the recession, both nationally and in the Ninth District (see Chart 1 for district trend). This was particularly the case because all of the increase came from people holding part-time jobs for economic reasons, which is data-speak for “because they couldn’t find full-time work.”

Part-time Ch1 5-29-15Although these are a small minority of all part-time jobs (most people working part-time prefer to do so), the share of part-time jobs for economic reasons doubled from 2007 to 2010, to almost 6 percent of the total labor force, and 20 percent of part-time labor.

But over the past five years or so, the total number of part-time jobs has been dropping. So too have part-time jobs as a share of total jobs and the share of part-time jobs for economic reasons, though the latter measure remains elevated compared with precrisis levels.

The same trends are broadly applicable by race in Ninth District states, but their paths have been considerably different, according to data from the Current Population Survey, gathered monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau.

CPS data show that until about 2010, black workers had fairly low rates of part-time work, but those rates then spiked well above the rates of whites and other minority groups (see Chart 2). (Because of sample sizes and comparatively small minority populations through much of the Ninth District, all other minority groups had to be combined.) Virtually all of this increase came from those working part-time for economic reasons, which also rose more for other minority groups than for whites (see Chart 3).

The good news is that part-time work, especially for economic reasons, has been in retreat, including a steep decline for black workers since mid-2013, though this measure also remains elevated compared with prerecession levels.

Part-time Ch2-3 -- 5-29-15

Look for future fedgazette Roundup posts on more part-time job trends in Ninth District states, as well as an in-depth look at Ninth District job growth since the recession in the July issue of the fedgazette.

Claire Hou, research assistant, contributed to this article.

Business activity continues to improve in Ninth District

Business activity in the Ninth District is above average and has improved over the past three months, based on a recent poll of 105 business contacts from around the district (see methodology). Improvements were seen across many industry sectors.

 Fifty-five percent of responding Ninth District firms reported that current business activity is above average or well above average, while only 6 percent reported that activity is below average. More than half of respondents said that business conditions have improved over the previous three months, while only 14 percent reported slightly worsening conditions, and none reported that conditions have worsened greatly. Respondents in real estate, construction, professional services and financial services were the most positive about current business activity, while manufacturers were much more mixed in their reports.

When those surveyed were asked about retail sales in their community, 40 percent of the responding firms noted that retail spending has been increasing over the past three months. Only 12 percent reported that retail sales have decreased.

Construction also appears to be growing, as almost two-thirds of responding firms said that construction activity in their communities was above average or better, and only 8 percent reported below-average activity. More than three-quarters of respondents also indicated that conditions in the construction sector had improved over the past year, and respondents in the construction industry were even more upbeat.

Recent changes in the value of the dollar had no impact on sales or costs, according to 71 percent of respondents. The remainder was split evenly between those reporting a positive and negative influence on sales, though manufacturers as a whole reported more negative effects, and they expect this drag on sales to continue.

Methodology: On May 11, 2015, the Minneapolis Fed emailed a web-based survey to about 600 Beige Book contacts from around the Ninth District. By May 12, 105 contacts had filled out the survey. The respondents come from a variety of industries (see table).

Ad hoc -- 5-21-15

Repeat after me: Ninth District hospitals (again) ranked among the country’s best

The rising cost of health care, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and other factors are putting increased attention on the quality of care. Recent analyses (see here and here) suggest that providers in the Ninth District are generally ahead of their national peers. Now a recent study by iVantage Health Analytics is piling on.

The firm’s Hospital Strength Index scored hospitals along nine measures, including cost, inpatient and outpatient shares, patient outcomes and perspectives, and financial strength. It looked at more than 4,300 U.S. hospitals, including 1,300 critical access hospitals, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive assessments of hospital performance in the country.

It found that hospitals in Ninth District states tend to be rated higher—in some cases, much higher—than their peers nationwide (see chart). In Wisconsin, for example, 40 percent of hospitals were given the top, Tier-1 rating, and 75 percent were in the top two tiers—better than all but three states. Every district state had a higher percentage of hospitals in the top three tiers compared with the national average.

Ninth District states are also home to almost 20 percent of critical access hospitals nationwide, which are small rural hospitals that receive special, cost-based reimbursements different from other hospitals. In a related ranking by iVantage, district states were home to 34 of the top 100 critical access hospitals.

For more analysis of health care issues in the Ninth District, watch for a forthcoming fedgazette article on ACA implementation in Ninth District states.

Hospital ratings iVantage -- 5-5-15

More recharging personal batteries at national parks

Even in the digital age—or maybe because of it—the great outdoors continues to be a tourism draw, as evidenced by growing visits to the country’s national parks, according to data from the National Park Service (NPS). And those visits are translating to the Ninth District economy.

Attendance has been trending upward at many parks, especially since the recession. Last year, attendance grew 6 percent among the 13 national parks in the Ninth District with annual attendance of at least 100,000, and is up almost 20 percent since 2008 (see Chart 1). In 2014, attendance at these district parks hit 9 million for the first time.

Among these large national parks in the district, two of them—Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and Glacier National in Montana—are responsible for half of all visitors. (The list does not include Yellowstone, portions of which are in Montana, but which lies mostly in Wyoming.) The biggest jump in attendance last year occurred at the Apostle Island National Park. Located in Lake Superior off the northern tip of Wisconsin, it saw attendance double to almost 300,000 in 2014 thanks to an impressive formation of ice caves on the island, coupled with a uniquely long viewing period.

Those visitors are spending money and creating jobs, according to a separate NPS database. Visitor spending hit nearly $1.2 billion last year, supporting more than 20,000 jobs (see Chart 2) in district states.

National parks

Ninth District hospitals ranked among best in the nation

When people are sick, they want the best health care. And despite what reputations might precede hospitals (or not), a recent and voluminous data release by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that many of the top-rated hospitals—at least according to patients—are not on the coasts, but in the heart of the country and specifically in the Ninth District, according to a summary analysis of the rankings by Kaiser Health News.

South Dakota and Maine tied for the top spot in nationwide hospital rankings, with a 4.1 average rating for all hospitals. Wisconsin and Minnesota ranked in the top five states, while Montana also beat the national average of 3.3 stars. Only North Dakota, at 3.2, was below the national average among district states.

The ratings use a one-to-five star system based on 11 facets of patient experience, including communication with patients, how well patients believed their pain was addressed and whether they would recommend the hospital to others, according to Kaiser. Hospitals collected the reviews through random surveys of all adult patients after their care. Every rated hospital had at least 100 patient reviews, and most had 300 or more.

A breakdown of star ratings shows that six of 17 rated hospitals in South Dakota earned five stars; Wisconsin had more than 100 rated hospitals, and none received fewer than three stars. North Dakota, meanwhile, had no hospitals rated either one or five stars.

Hospital ratings -- 4-24-15

Is there a doctor in the house (who accepts my insurance)?

When you are sick, you sort of assume that you will be able to see a doctor. But according to a recent survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, not all doctors are accepting new patients. That’s especially the case if you are on Medicaid, the federal health program that serves the poor. The good news for the sick and injured is that doctors in the Ninth District are more willing and able to see new patients than doctors elsewhere.

The survey looked at access for new patients with three types of insurance coverage: private, Medicare and Medicaid (the survey did not ask about the uninsured). Overall, about 95 percent of office-based physicians across the country accepted some new patients.

But apparently not all patients are created equal, because access differed by type of insurance. Patients with both private insurance and Medicare had about an 85 percent chance of being able to find a doctor taking these types of new patients. But only 69 percent of doctors said they were accepting new patients on Medicaid, which typically reimburses doctors at a lower rate than other health insurance coverage.

But new-patient rates among doctors in the Ninth District were universally higher (see chart). Doctors in Minnesota accepted new patients at a rate of about 94 percent, regardless of insurance type. The Dakotas and Montana went completely against the trend; doctors in each of those states were more open to accepting new Medicaid patients than those with either private or Medicare insurance.

New patients -- 4-20-15

Minnesota foundations: Give ’til it hurts so good

Like the saying goes, it matters where you grow up. So it is with nonprofits in Minnesota, which benefit from generous giving from foundation and corporate grantmakers.

Corporate and foundation contributions make up a small portion of charitable giving (25 to 30 percent) and an even smaller portion of total nonprofit revenue. Still, corporate and foundation giving plays an important financial role for many nonprofits, and this giving often comes in big chunks critical for new or expanded services.

In that vein, Minnesota nonprofits are blessed with a large institutional giving sector, whose charitable contributions are considerably larger than those in neighboring district states, even on a per capita basis.

For example, in 2012 (the most recent year with comparable state data), Minnesota foundations gave roughly twice as much to charitable causes as the four other Ninth District states combined, according to the Foundation Center (see Chart 1). One of the reasons for this big gap has to do with foundation assets. For example, Wisconsin has almost 40 percent more in-state foundations than Minnesota, but only half the total assets ($8 billion vs. $16 billion), according to the Foundation Center.

Minnesota also has a number of very large corporations, with affiliated foundations, headquartered in the state. In 2013, the top 25 corporate foundations in Minnesota—which include the likes of Target, General Mills and Cargill—gifted $146 million to in-state organizations (see Chart 2), along with more than $500 million to non-Minnesota organizations, according to the Minnesota Council on Foundations.

For more discussion of charitable giving and other trends affecting nonprofits, look for the upcoming April issue of the fedgazette.

Foundations Ch1-2 -- 4-9-15


The waiting game: Wait times at VA health centers vary across Ninth District states

Going to the doctor is not always fun. But waiting for the doctor can be worse. Much attention has been paid to wait times for military veterans seeking care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers across the country, and data from the VA show that wait times vary significantly among VA health care systems in Ninth District states.

For example, the percentage of pending appointments that are scheduled more than 30 days after the preferred date runs as low as 1 percent (Fargo, N.D.) to 10 percent (Milwaukee, Wis.), according to VA data released this month for appointments through March 15, 2015. The likelihood of waiting also appears unrelated to volume; for example, the Minneapolis office, which had 73,000 pending appointments at 11 health centers across the state, has a lower average wait rate than Milwaukee, which has 58,000 appointments on the books at six facilities.

Field facilities within a specific VA district also vary considerably. For example, at Montana’s busiest VA facility (Fort Harrison), nearly 16 percent of appointments are scheduled more than 30 days past the preferred date, while the rate is 4.4 percent in Billings. But again, volume isn’t necessarily the culprit. The Iron Mountain district serves the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Its busiest facility (in Iron Mountain) had a 30-day wait rate of 5.7 percent, while the Marquette facility—with one-quarter of the appointments—had a wait rate of 13.2 percent.

VA wait times -- 4-9-15