Keystone Research Center Releases Annual Report on Working Families, COVID-19 Crisis

For Immediate Release

September 1, 2021

Kirstin Snow

Keystone Research Annual State of Working PA Highlights Critical Need for Continued Federal and State Action on the Economy

HARRISBURG — Today the Keystone Research Center released its annual State of Working PA report.

Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of Keystone Research Center, was joined by Claire Kovach, Ph.D., and Maisum Murtaza as they broke down the latest numbers on the Pennsylvania economy from the perspective of working families. They highlighted the deep impact of the coronavirus on jobs and unemployment; how the current economic crisis has laid bare stark inequalities in Pennsylvania and reviewed the pivotal importance of getting federal and state policies right to mitigate the economic fallout from COVID,

Key findings in the report:

  • COVID-19 exacerbated pre-existing inequities, eliminating a higher share of low-wage jobs. PA is still down 360,000+ jobs.
  • Wage growth looks strong—but only because low-wage jobs have gone. Jobs for low-wage workers (many women & people of color) are still down nearly 20%.
  • Long-term inequities grew due to wealth gains at the top. PA billionaires’ wealth has more than doubled since March 2020.
  • Policy mattered—in the past 2 years, in the past 7 on minimum wage, and the past 100.
  • Policy matters going forward.

Of the report, Herzenberg said, “The message of our report is crystal clear: aggressive federal action prevented an even more devastating economic collapse but we’re not out of the woods yet. Federal policymakers need to enact President Biden’s Build Back Better plan to begin restoring shared prosperity in America.”

He added, “In the last two years, (federal) policy really mattered and prevented a bigger economic catastrophe. In the next two months and next few years, policy matters too—by enacting President Biden’s Build Back Better plan and restoring real rights to unionize in the United States, we can achieve a more just and equitable economy (and kick start a team effort to avoid climate disaster).”

Actions to be taken to move forward:

  • Continue emergency relief—don’t quit while you’re ahead!
  • Address long-term class, racial, and gender inequalities—measures today won’t do that.
  • Act on climate change.
  • Enact the Build Back Better plan.
  • Pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act.
  • Pass an increase in the federal minimum wage.
  • Create a real U.S. work-linked learning and career infrastructure.

In what needs to be done moving forward, Herzenberg concluded, “Federal policies in 2020 and 2021 avoided a bigger economic collapse, but we need more action to achieve the economy we want, not the economy we’ve had. Three immediate to-dos for Congress: pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the entire Build Back Better agenda; pass a big federal minimum wage increase which automatically gives workers more buying power every year; and enact the Protect the Right to Organize Act to restore real rights to form a union.”

The full report is available HERE. A video recording of the press conference is HERE.