Posts Tagged ‘Labor Department’

U.S. Adds Below-Forecast 155,000 Jobs as Wage Gain Misses

December 7, 2018
  • Monthly earnings increase 0.2%, compared with 0.3% forecasts
  • Unemployment rate holds at 3.7%, lowest level since 1969
U.S. Adds 155,000 Jobs in November, Jobless Rate Holds Steady at 3.7%

U.S. jobs and wages rose by less than forecast in November while the unemployment rate held at the lowest in almost five decades, indicating some moderation in a still-healthy labor market.

Image result for U.S. Auto workers, factory, photos

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 155,000 after a downwardly revised 237,000 gain in the prior month, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for an increase of 198,000. Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent from the prior month, compared with forecasts for 0.3 percent, though wages matched projections on an annual basis, up 3.1 percent for a second month.

Treasury yields initially dipped and the dollar declined as the report added to signs that economic growth is cooling a bit, following weakness in business-equipment orders and an ebbing of consumer optimism. While the data may spur more concern over the outlook after stocks and bond yields tumbled this week, some investors may see the prospect of a slower pace of Federal Reserve interest-rate increases as a positive following an expected hike this month, as equity futures rose following the jobs data.

“It’s not like 155,000 is a terrible number, but it’s below what people were looking for,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. After an unusually strong two quarters for the economy, “we’re looking for growth to step down this quarter and you should probably also expect to see the labor market cool off some. It’s consistent with the economy coming off what people call a sugar rush.”

For the Fed’s interest-rate hikes, “December is pretty close to a done deal,” Feroli said. “For next year, it depends what the data looks like the next couple of months. It doesn’t feel like things are softening in an alarming way. If it’s really soft, they’ll take a break.”

The jobless rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent in November, matching estimates. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said late Thursday that the U.S. labor market is “very strong” by many measures and that the economy is “performing very well overall.”

Even so, one key risk is the trade war between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies. While the nations agreed last weekend on a 90-day pause for new tariffs, the accumulated levies and developments have created uncertainty for companies and may weigh on the employment outlook.

Retail Payrolls

Retailers showed solid demand for workers overall, hiring 18,200 people in the month before Christmas; general-merchandise stores added the most employees while clothing and electronics stores cut workers. Transportation and warehousing, a category closely linked to retail, also saw gains of 25,400 in the month.

Construction jobs rose by 5,000, the weakest since a decline in March, as gains cooled among residential specialty trade contractors. Manufacturing remained strong at an increase of 27,000.

The monthly gain in average hourly earnings for all private workers followed a downwardly revised 0.1 percent increase, the report showed. The annual increase topped 3 percent for a second month, reflecting how companies are steadily raising pay to attract and retain workers as the availability of workers tightens.

The gains probably still aren’t fast enough, though, to spur concerns of runaway inflation among Fed officials. While the unemployment rate is well below the level that central bankers consider sustainable in the long run, inflation has remained close to the central bank’s target, leading some to question whether the Fed should keep raising interest rates.

Here are other highlights from the report:


  • Revisions subtracted 12,000 jobs from payrolls in the prior two months, resulting in a three-month average gain of 170,000.
  • Private payrolls rose by 161,000, compared with the median estimate for 198,000; government payrolls decreased by 6,000.
  • Service providers added 132,000 jobs, including 40,100 in health care and social assistance. The 32,000 gain in professional and business services was the smallest since December 2017.


  • Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers increased 3.2 percent from a year earlier, following 3.2 percent in the prior month.
  • The average work week decreased to 34.4 hours from 34.5 hours in the prior month; a shorter workweek has the effect of boosting average hourly pay.


  • The participation rate was unchanged from the prior month at 62.9 percent. The measure tracks share of working-age people either with jobs or actively looking.
  • The employment-population ratio, another broad gauge of labor-market health, was unchanged at 60.6 percent.
  • The U-6, or underemployment rate, rose to 7.6 percent from 7.4 percent. This measure includes part-time workers who want a full-time job and people who are less active in seeking work.



US hiring slowed to 155K jobs, jobless rate stayed 3.7%

December 7, 2018

U.S. employers pulled back on hiring in November, adding just 155,000 jobs. That’s below this year’s average monthly gains but enough to suggest that the economy is expanding at a solid pace despite sharp gyrations in the stock market.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate remained 3.7%, nearly a five-decade low, for the third straight month. Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago, matching the previous month’s figure, which was the best since 2009.

Photographer: Alex FLynn/Bloomberg

The economy is expanding at a healthy pace but rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China, ongoing interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve, and slowing global growth have roiled financial markets. Analysts expect growth to slow but remain solid in 2019 as the impact of last year’s tax cuts fade.

– Associated Press – Friday, December 7, 2018

155,965,000 Employed in June: 11th Record-Setter Under Trump

August 3, 2018

Following last month’s strong employment report, the numbers released on Friday were even better in some respects.

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics says a record 155,965,000 people were employed in July, the 11th record-breaker since President Trump took office 19 months ago.

“Our economy is soaring. Our jobs are booming. Factories are pouring back into our country, they coming from all over the world. We are defending our workers,” President Trump told a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Thursday.

BLS said the economy added 157,000 jobs in July (compared with a revised 248,000 in June).

The unemployment rate edged down to 3.9 percent, as the number of employed people reached new heights, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 284,000 to 6,280,000 in July.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.4 percent) and Whites (3.4 percent) declined in July. The jobless rates for adult women (3.7 percent), teenagers (13.1 percent), Blacks (6.6 percent), and Asians (3.1 percent), showed little or no change over the month. The unemployment rate for Hispanics hit a record low of 4.5 percent, down from last month’s record 4.6 percent.

The labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent in July, was unchanged over the month and over the year.

In July, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 7 cents to $27.05. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 71 cents, or 2.7 percent.

In July, the nation’s civilian noninstitutionalized population, consisting of all people age 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached 257,843,000. Of those, 162,245,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 162,245,000 who participated in the labor force equaled 62.9 percent of the 257,843,000 civilian noninstitutionalized population, the same as last month’s 62.9 percent.

Labor force participation outlook

In its 2018 Long-Term Budget Outlook, the Congressional Budget Office said it has slightly raised its projection of the labor force participation rate since last year.

CBO now projects that the rate of labor force participation will decline from 62.8 percent in 2018 to 61.0 percent in 2028 and to 59.5 percent in 2048. The aging of the population is the most important factor driving down the overall participation rate over the next 30 years, CBO said.

Because older people tend to participate in the labor force at lower rates than younger people, the aging of the population is expected to significantly dampen the rate of participation over the next 30 years. The share of people over the age of 65 is projected to increase from 16 percent in 2018 to 22 percent in 2048, and the share of the population ages 20 to 64 is expected to decline from 59 percent to 55 percent during that 30-year period.

CBO noted that three trends are putting downward pressure on the participation rate:

— Men of the generations that followed the baby boomers tend to participate in the labor force at lower rates than male baby boomers did at the same age. (The participation of women from generations following the baby boomers has remained relatively constant.)

— The share of people receiving federal disability benefits is generally projected to continue to rise, and people who receive such benefits are less likely to work.

— The marriage rate is projected to continue to fall, especially among men, and unmarried men tend to participate in the labor force at lower rates than married men.

CBO expects those forces to be mostly offset by two trends:

— As the population becomes more educated, labor participation rates are expected to increase because workers with more education tend to participate in the labor force at higher rates than do people with less education.

— Second, increasing longevity is expected to lead people to continue working to increasingly older ages.

BLS noted that the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for May was revised up from +244,000 to +268,000, and the change for June was revised up from +213,000 to +248,000. With these revisions, employment gains in May and June combined were 59,000 more than previously reported.


“It’s the economy, stupid.”

— James Carville

Image result for James carville, photos

James Carville with Bill Clinton in 1999 at the White House. Credit Mario Tama/Agence France-Presse

U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.9% — More Working, Wages Tick Upward

August 3, 2018

Nonfarm payrolls rose seasonally adjusted 157,000, unemployment rate 3.9%, job growth appears stronger 

Workers assemble sneakers at the New Balance Inc. manufacturing facility in Lawrence, Mass., in July.
Workers assemble sneakers at the New Balance Inc. manufacturing facility in Lawrence, Mass., in July. PHOTO: SCOTT EISEN/BLOOMBERG NEWS

WASHINGTON—U.S. hiring cooled but remained solid in July and the unemployment rate fell, showing the labor market remains firmly in expansion mode.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 157,000 in July, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate, a seasonally adjusted 3.9%, ticked down from 4.0% the prior month. (Follow our live analysis.)

Looking over a broader period, job growth appears stronger. Revised figures show employers added 248,000 jobs in June and 268,000 in May, a net upward revision of 59,000.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 190,000 new jobs and a 3.9% unemployment rate.

Wages rose 2.7% from a year earlier in July, a modest pace.

Through the first seven months of the year, employers added an average of 215,000 a jobs a month, a somewhat unexpected acceleration from last year’s average through July of 184,000 a month. Economists generally expect hiring to ease in the later stages of an expansion when workers are in short supply, which a 3.9% jobless rate would suggest.

The report showed the manufacturing industry added 37,000 jobs in July. Leisure and hospitality, as well as professional and business services expanded payrolls strongly. Government payrolls declined by 13,000.

A strong economy and growing paychecks mean more visitors are stopping by The Vineyard and Brewery in Hershey, Pa., to sip wine and beer and listen to concerts. The 60-person company has added about 10 employees to payrolls this year. Michael Wilson, partner at The Vineyard, said the winery plans to hire another one to three employees by year-end.

“People locally have been more apt to come out and enjoy our experiences with their disposable income,” said Mr. Wilson, who also has also noticed more tourists.

One reason employers have been able to hire is the share of Americans working or looking for work has started to edge up after a long decline.

In July, the share of American adults working or looking for a job held at 62.9% after a June increase. The rate is up slightly from a recent low of 62.3% in 2015, but still near the smallest share of adults participating since the late 1970s, a time when women were still entering the workforce in greater numbers.

The Federal Reserve characterized the labor market as strong in its most recent statement Wednesday. The central bank’s upbeat assessment of the labor market and broader economic conditions suggests another interest-rate increase is likely at its next meeting.

A tighter labor market, in theory, should also translate into faster wage growth, as employers compete for scarce labor. While wages have yet to break out, they are climbing at a faster pace than earlier in the expansion.

Average hourly earnings for all private-sector workers increased by 7 cents last month to $27.05.

GMM Nonstick Coatings, a 350-employee supplier of coatings for cookware companies like Calphalon, has added about 25 workers this year. Ravin Gandhi, chief executive of the supplier, said adding new hires means competing for highly educated workers, many in research and development.

To compete, it has raised wages about 5% to 6% in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period a year earlier. This marks an acceleration from the 1% to 2% pay raises the company was offering a few years ago.

“It’s really hard to get good people,” Mr. Gandhi said. “You’ve got to really roll the red carpet out and go after people and kind of poach them and make them offers they can’t refuse.”

Still, not everyone is feeling the benefits of a tight labor market pushing up pay.

Taylor Brim, 25, hasn’t seen a raise for more than a year.

Meanwhile, the Denver resident’s rent increased 7% beginning in July, while her electric and internet bills also climbed. As price increases cut into her paychecks, Ms. Brim, an associate producer for a TV show, has sacrificed regular haircuts and concert outings.

“One of my paychecks is about the cost of my rent,” Ms. Brim said.

Friday’s report showed the broadest measure of unemployment, including those too discouraged to look for work, plus Americans stuck in part-time jobs who want to work full time, fell to 7.5% from 7.8% the prior month. That rate, known as the U-6, remains somewhat elevated compared with the last time unemployment was similarly low. In April 2000, the broader measure was 6.9%.

The average workweek ticked down to 34.5 hours in July.

Write to Sarah Chaney at and Eric Morath at

U.S. Jobless Claims Plunge to Lowest Weekly Tally Since 1973

January 18, 2018


By Katia Dmitrieva

 Updated on 

U.S. filings for unemployment benefits plummeted to the lowest level in almost 45 years in a sign the job market will tighten further in 2018, Labor Department figures showed Thursday.


  • Jobless claims decreased by 41k to 220k (est. 249k); lowest level since Feb. 1973, biggest drop since April 2009
  • Continuing claims rose by 76k to 1.952m in week ended Jan. 6 (data reported with one-week lag)
  • Four-week average of initial claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, fell to 244,500 from the prior week’s 250,750

Key Takeaways

The drop in claims shows that companies are increasingly holding on to their employees amid a shortage of skilled labor. Businesses are struggling to find workers to fill positions, particularly in manufacturing and construction, as cited in some anecdotes for the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book released Wednesday.

The figures suggest the unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, already the lowest since 2000, could be poised to decline further. The latest week for claims includes the 12th of the month, which is the reference period for the Labor Department’s monthly employment surveys.

Caveats for the latest numbers include the fact that the week was sandwiched between two periods containing holidays, when data tend to be more volatile. In addition, more states than usual had estimated figures.

Other Details

  • Prior week’s reading was unrevised at 261,000
  • Unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits rose to 1.4 percent from 1.3 percent in previous week
  • Claims were estimated for Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Wyoming
  • New York’s unadjusted claims fell by 26,190 to 23,171; California’s estimated, unadjusted claims rose by 11,994 to 59,284

— With assistance by Chris Middleton, and Vince Golle

Trump’s ObamaCare Lifeboat

January 8, 2018

New rules could make association health plans a realistic alternative.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, June 12, 2017.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, June 12, 2017. PHOTO: SUSAN WALSH/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Trump Administration is on a mission to rescue health-care markets and consumers from ObamaCare’s shrinking choices and higher prices. Witness the Labor Department’s proposal to allow small businesses to band together to provide insurance on equal footing with corporations and unions.

The share of workers at small businesses with employer-sponsored health benefits has dropped by a quarter since 2010 as insurance costs have ballooned in part due to government mandates. About 11 million workers employed by small businesses are uninsured. Some businesses have dropped their workers onto state insurance exchanges where premiums are subsidized by taxpayers.

Enter President Trump, who last fall directed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to consider “expanding the conditions that satisfy the commonality-of-interest requirements” for association health plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or Erisa.

Large-group plans that are self-insured—i.e., funded by unions or employers—are covered by Erisa. These plans are exempt from ObamaCare’s essential benefits requirements, though they must comply with rules on annual and lifetime limits and pre-existing conditions as well as state solvency regulations.

Mom-and-pop businesses and sole proprietors aren’t so lucky. Most purchase coverage from insurers in the small group or individual marketplaces, which are subject to ObamaCare’s coverage mandates and controls on premium prices. The Obama Administration precluded small employers from forming association plans that are exempt from Erisa by narrowly interpreting the “commonality of interest” membership requirements.

But on Thursday Mr. Acosta proposed a new rule-making that would broadly define “commonality of interest” among employers to include geographical area—say, a metropolitan area or state—as well as an industry, trade or profession. Local chambers of commerce and national industry groups could thus sponsor plans. The rule would also treat sole proprietors as both employers and employees, which would allow independent contractors—e.g., Uber drivers or freelance journalists—to form or join association plans.

Liberals are howling that President Trump is trying to destroy ObamaCare exchanges. But millions of small business workers and proprietors are uninsured because they can’t afford coverage on the exchanges. Many sole proprietors who earn too much to qualify for subsidies have been squeezed by soaring premiums.

Association plans could reduce costs by spreading administrative burdens and actuarial risks over more workers. The exemption from ObamaCare’s benefit mandates would also give groups more flexibility to design plans to meet worker needs. Young restaurant workers might be able to purchase less expensive plans. Small businesses would also have more leverage to negotiate lower prices with drug companies and providers.

Workers couldn’t be denied coverage or charged more because of their health status, which will limit the flexibility and potential costs reductions in association plans. Such plans would also still have to comply with state regulations, which might limit their growth. But states could facilitate their expansion with reciprocity agreements that would allow, say, Wisconsin to recognize any association plan approved by Michigan or Indiana.

As new alternatives develop, the state exchanges may evolve into high-risk pools for the individuals hardest to insure. These might be less expensive for taxpayers to subsidize than the status quo that raises premiums for everyone. Workers in counties where only one or two insurers offer plans on the exchanges would have more options. Insurance companies would face more competition, which could reduce costs.

The Trump Administration can’t fix all of ObamaCare’s problems with deregulation, but it can at least provide some struggling Americans with lifeboats such as association health plans.

Appeared in the January 8, 2018, print edition.

Many Comments Critical of ‘Fiduciary’ Rule Are Fake — 40% of respondents didn’t write the posts that were attributed to them

December 27, 2017

Wall Street Journal analysis shows 40% of respondents didn’t write the posts that were attributed to them

Thousands of Fake Comments on Net Neutrality: A WSJ Investigation
On federal government web sites, public comments can influence the outcome of regulations affecting millions of people. A WSJ investigation has identified and analyzed thousands of fraudulent posts on issues such as FCC net neutrality rules and payday lending. Video/illustration: Heather Seidel/WSJ.

A significant number of fake comments appear among thousands criticizing a proposed federal rule meant to prevent conflicts of interest in retirement advice, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

At issue is the Labor Department’s “fiduciary rule,” which would require investment advisers handling retirement accounts to act in the best interest of clients. Written during the Obama administration, the proposed rule won’t be fully implemented until July 2019, and the Labor Department is still gathering feedback about it on its website.

Many of the comments weren’t written by the people they were attributed to, the Journal analysis found.

Consider the experience of Robert Schubert, a Devon, Pa., salesperson. A comment posted in his name on the Labor Department website opposed the rule, saying: “I do not need, do not want and object to any federal interference in my retirement planning.”

In an interview, Mr. Schubert said the comment was a fraud. He didn’t post it and doesn’t agree with it. “I am disgusted that people can post comments using my name,” Mr. Schubert said.

Mr. Schubert is among 50 people who responded to a survey last week conducted by research firm Mercury Analytics for The Journal—40%, or 20 of whom said they didn’t post the comment listed under their name, address, phone number and email.

Asked about the Journal findings, a Labor Department spokesman said the agency removes fraudulent comments brought to the agency’s attention. Submitting fraudulent statements or representations to the federal government is a felony.

The Labor Department is the fifth agency identified by The Journal to have posted unauthorized comments on its website. Most federal agencies make it difficult to independently check the authenticity of public comments; only a few publish email addresses along with the comments.

The Journal previously found fraudulent postings under names and email addresses at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. The Journal’s findings were cited by calls from Congress to delay the repeal of the FCC’s net-neutrality rule.

On federal government web sites, public comments can influence the outcome of regulations affecting millions of people. A WSJ investigation has identified and analyzed thousands of fraudulent posts on issues such as FCC net neutrality rules and payday lending. Video/illustration: Heather Seidel/WSJ.

The fiduciary rule has been fiercely opposed by brokerage firms, insurance companies and mutual fund providers that worry it will make it difficult to sell lucrative financial products that come with high fees. They also are concerned it will add costs through new disclosure requirements and procedures, which in turn will discourage some companies and financial advisers from serving investors with small nest eggs.

The Trump administration’s Labor Department is delaying implementation of most of the rule from Jan. 1 to July 1, 2019 while it reviews the economic impact.

It is unclear who is posting the fraudulent comments. The rule so far has been a boon to the brokerage industry because firms have been pushing customers toward accounts that charge an annual fee on their assets—rather than commissions that can violate the rule. These fee-based accounts typically are more lucrative for the industry.

The Journal survey was sent to 345 people among more than 3,100 comments. The surveys were sent to those identified by The Journal as those who appeared to be unaffiliated with industry or consumer groups or firms. Most of the 345 comments were critical of the fiduciary rule.

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, agencies must take comments under consideration but needn’t pay heed to them. The impact often comes afterward, when the regulated parties appeal to the next administration, the courts or Congress, which can alter a rule or slow its implementation. Failure to consider comments has become a factor in litigation, with judges sometimes forcing an agency to address comments it ignored.

Mercury said the results of the survey indicate “that the practice of submitting comments without the approval of the individuals identified occurs with frequency.”

Some of those surveyed said they liked the comments attributed to them, even though they hadn’t filed them.

A comment attributed to Gina Nakagawa of Winterville, Ga., said: “My husband and I have worked very diligently since an early age.”

In an interview Mrs. Nakagawa, a retired schoolteacher and insurance sales agent, said: “It is not factual…I wish I had said it. But I can’t claim that I wrote it.”

Ralph Litten of Liberty, Mo., is no fan of government regulations. But he says in an interview the comment attributed to him was false and he was unhappy it included his personal information.

“The Federal Government under the Constitution has no authority to define or regulate in any manner how or when I make use of my retirement accounts,” states the comment attributed to Mr. Litten.

In the interview, Mr. Litten said: “The older I get the less and less I trust our federal government, particularly today. It is a quagmire.”

In Start to Unwinding the Health Law, Trump to Ease Insurance Rules

October 12, 2017

Directive is expected to expand the sale of less-expensive plans with fewer benefits

President Donald Trump is planning to sign an executive order Thursday to initiate the unwinding of the Affordable Care Act, paving the way for sweeping changes to health-insurance regulations by instructing agencies to allow the sale of less-comprehensive health plans to expand.

Mr. Trump, using his authority to accomplish some of what Republicans failed to achieve with their stalled congressional health-care overhaul, will direct federal agencies to take actions aimed at providing lower-cost options and fostering competition in the individual insurance markets, according to a Wall Street Journal interview with two senior White House officials. The specific steps included in the order will represent only the first moves in his White House’s effort to strike parts of the law, the officials said.

By boosting alternative insurance arrangements that would be exempt from some key ACA rules, the change would provide more options for consumers. But health-insurance experts say it could raise costs for sicker people by drawing healthier, younger consumers to these alternative plans, which could be less expensive and offer fewer benefits.

The executive order—which Mr. Trump plans to unveil in a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room Thursday, surrounded by cabinet officials and employer representatives—will aim to expand access to plans that let small businesses and possibly individuals band together to buy insurance. It will also lift limits on the sale of short-term insurance, which provides limited coverage and often appeals to healthier people. And it will seek to expand the ways in which workers use employer-funded accounts to buy their own insurance policies.

It will be months, rather than weeks, for even the most simple changes in the executive order to take effect, and the order leaves key details to the Labor Department, in particular, to determine after a formal rule-making process, including the solicitation of public comment.

But taken together, the instructions will amount to a reversal of the broad ACA approach, which seeks to guarantee that insurance policies offer a minimum level of benefits to all consumers regardless of their health history. Mr. Trump and other Republicans argue that such rules must be relaxed to bring down premiums, especially for healthier people who have seen costs rise under the ACA.

The order also will set the stage for potential future action, as Mr. Trump weighs whether to stop enforcing the ACA requirement that most Americans obtain insurance, for example, and whether to keep making payments that let insurers subsidize lower-income consumers.

And in a surprising move, the White House officials also said Wednesday night that the order would direct agencies to study and issue a report on federal and state policies that could contribute to rising health costs—including, potentially, the impact of health-care provider consolidation.

Health analysts predicted that Thursday’s order could tempt critics to pursue legal challenges, opening a new front in the health-care battle. But the order is likely to leave much of the implementation details to agencies, senior White House officials said Wednesday, and they said they didn’t believe the order could be litigated.

The action marks the biggest change to health care since the November election. The ACA, also called Obamacare, made sweeping changes to health insurance pricing that made insurance newly accessible for lower-income and sicker Americans, but also resulted in market turbulence and higher premiums for healthier and middle-income peo ple, in particular.

Republicans’ effort to repeal the ACA collapsed in Congress last month, and Mr. Trump hasn’t hidden his displeasure at GOP leaders for that failure or his desire to step into the gap. The White House officials said Wednesday night that the order was specifically crafted in the context of the failure of the repeal bid.

“Since Congress can’t get its act together on HealthCare, I will be using the power of the pen to give great HealthCare to many people – FAST,” Mr. Trump tweeted this week in signaling his intent to issue the executive order.

Democrats, however, warned the order could cause turbulence in the insurance market and overlooks the complexity of the health-care system. “It has the potential to be very disruptive,” said Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “I don’t think the insurance companies are prepared to actually deal with that.”

The order will direct the Labor Department to take steps that speed the way for small businesses, and possibly individuals, to band together in arrangements called association health plans. These insurance plans would be exempt from some regulations, such as the requirement that they offer a specific set of benefits and they would likely attract those with limited health needs.

The final decision about how far to expand the definition of an association and its members will be left to the agency, after a period of public comment, the two White House officials said. The officials said they supported a more expansive view of who might be considered to be eligible to sign up, but weren’t prescribing a specific legal definition—a significant factor in determining the impact of the change on insurance markets.

Supporters say such health plans can costs less, since they wouldn’t be subject to as many regulations. But critics say that leaves consumers at risk if they wind up with expensive health conditions that aren’t covered.

Currently, these self-insured health plans are typically led by trade groups that are subject to state regulation, but agency moves following the Trump order would free them from many of those rules.

In another move, the executive order will call for expanded access to short-term health plans whose availability was curtailed by the Obama administration. These plans have more flexibility than others allowed under the ACA, such as an ability to refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

The Obama administration limited these policies to less than three months, with no ability to renew them after that time because of concerns they were siphoning off healthier people from the ACA marketplaces.

As with association plans, supporters say short-term policies provide more options and carry lower premiums, while critics say they would attract the healthy and leave higher-risk people in more traditional plans that would become more costly since the population would be older and sicker.

Finally, the order will direct agencies to rescind an Obama-era guidance on employer-funded accounts that workers use for medical costs. Employees who have these accounts, called health reimbursement arrangements, will likely be allowed to use them to buy their own insurance plans, something that is now forbidden.

The Obama administration blocked the pretax dollars from being used to buy such plans because of concerns that would prompt employers to stop offering coverage of their own.

—Kristina Peterson contributed to this article.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at, Stephanie Armour at and Anna Wilde Mathews at

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US hiring falls 33,000 after hurricanes slam Texas, Florida

October 6, 2017

By Christopher Rugaber
The Associated Press

Phil Wiggett

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit Texas, Florida and other Southeastern states. It was the first decline in six years.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent from 4.4 percent, the lowest level since February 2001.

Looking past the hurricanes’ impact, the job market and economy generally look healthy. Some economists expect job growth to rebound in the coming months as businesses in the area reopen and construction companies ramp up repair and renovation work.

Last month’s drop was driven by huge losses in a restaurants and bars, which shed 105,000 jobs, a sign of the damage to Florida’s tourism industry.

5 Things to Watch in the September Jobs Report

October 6, 2017

The Labor Department releases its monthly snapshot of the labor market Friday, covering hiring and unemployment in September. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal project the economy added 80,000 jobs and unemployment remained a low 4.4%.

  • The Hurricane Effect

    Hurricanes Harvey and Irma likely slowed hiring last month, but by how much is the big question. The Labor Department says about 8% of U.S. workers are in counties hit by the storms. As a result, economists are projecting just 80,000 jobs added in September—less than half this year’s monthly average growth of 176,000. A solid number, say, above 100,000, would suggest the economy largely withstood the blow from the hurricanes and is strong.

  • Low Unemployment

    The unemployment rate—4.4% in August–has hovered near a 16-year low in recent months, suggesting the country is at or near maximum employment. The Federal Reserve projects unemployment of 4.5% to 4.8% in the longer run. Another drop in the rate would likely nudge the Fed closer to raising short-term interest rates as early as December. (This measure, too, could be affected by the hurricanes, which prompted some workers to file for unemployment insurance.)

  • Earnings Update

    Workers’ hourly earnings rose 2.5% in the year through August, extending a long run of subpar growth. Adjusting for inflation, wage growth looks healthier. The Fed is looking for stronger wage growth as a sign the market is at or near full employment and needs less stimulus in the form of low interest rates. Again, this data point could be skewed by the hurricanes. It’s possible, for example, the storms caused an increase in overtime hours among certain workers, such as aid workers, which would temporarily boost wages. Separately, lower-wage workers may have been more likely to lose jobs to the storms.

    Growth in average hourly earnings in year through August
  • Participation Pickup

    The share of adults in their prime working years–25 to 54 years old–in the labor force remains depressed despite solid job growth in recent years. Just 81.6% of these Americans were working or looking for a job in August, down more than a percentage point since the start of the recession and down nearly three points since early 2000. A rise in participation among this age group would suggest that the labor market’s  expansion still has some room to run before becoming overheated.

  • Industry Breakdown

    The manufacturing sector–a focus of President Donald Trump’s election campaign–has steadily added jobs in recent years and there are signs of more momentum. Car sales posted their best month of the year last month partly because of the need to replace vehicles damaged by the hurricanes. A key purchasing-managers’ index showed factory activity last month hit the highest level in 13 years. Further hiring in the sector would suggest the expansion is starting to benefit more blue-collar workers.