October proved to be another strong month for jobs as the US economy added another 214,000 to its payrolls. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.8%. The October report also added 31,000 jobs to totals from August and September. October marks the 9th straight month of job gains over 200,000.
Despite the strong numbers in 2014, voters pointed to the economy as their chief concern in the voting booth on Tuesday. The election proved what many economists have been saying about the economy all along, namely that the economic gains are not reaching the middle class. Median incomes have been stagnant, and some estimates suggest up to 90% of the wealth created since the recession ended has went to the top income brackets.
Voters in four states overwhelmingly voted for increases to their state’s minimum wage. Notably, all four states (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota) are considered very conservative. Conservatives, particularly those in Washington, typically oppose increases to the minimum wage. Some oppose the concept of a minimum wage altogether.
Outside of minimum wage increases at the state level, governments in the US are not doing much to help increase the average American’s income. Washington has been in gridlock for years, and with government now totally divided between a Democratic executive branch and a Republican legislative branch, economic relief does not look likely in the next two years.
The only issue President Obama and Republicans seem likely to move on is new trade agreements. Economists are split on whether this is good or bad for American workers. Some argue that these agreements help bring cheap products to the country and save consumers money. Others argue that they put too much downward pressure on American wages.