Monthly Labor Review — December 2011
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
|Employment growth by size class: comparing firm and establishment data
Sherry Dalton, Erik Friesenhahn, James Spletzer, and David Talan
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Estimating an energy consumer price index from establishment survey data
In the calm between the holidays, it’s time to consider what lies ahead in the new year for the transportation community – federal and state legislators, state departments of transportation, and the transportation industry at large. Many of these issues mirror the challenges facing the entire nation: job creation, funding shortfalls, integrating new technology into older systems, aging infrastructure.
From its vantage point as the voice of transportation, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials offers this look at the top 10 issues that will be talked, written, or tweeted about and legislated in the year ahead.
This quarterly survey provides national summary statistics on the revenues, expenditures and composition of assets of the 100 largest state and local public employee retirement systems in the United States. These 100 systems comprise 89.4 percent of financial activity among such entities, based on the 2007 Census of Governments. This survey presents the most current statistics about investment decisions by state and local public employee retirement systems, which are among the largest types of institutional investors in the U.S. financial markets. These statistical tables are published three months after each calendar quarter and show national financial transactions and trends for the past five years. Internet address: <http://www.census.gov/govs/qpr/>.
Capital Punishment, 2010 – Statistical Tables
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics
Presents characteristics of persons under sentence of death on December 31, 2010, and persons executed in 2010. Preliminary data on executions by states during 2011 are included. Tables present state-by-state information on the movement of prisoners into and out of death sentence status during 2010, status of capital statutes, and methods of execution. Tables also summarize data on offender characteristics, such as sex, race, Hispanic origin, and time between death sentence and execution. Data are from the National Prisoner Statistics (NPS-8) series.
Highlights include the following:
- At yearend 2010, 36 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons held 3,158 inmates under sentence of death, 15 fewer inmates than at yearend 2009.
- Between January 1 and December 19, 2011, 13 states executed 43 inmates, which was 3 fewer than the number executed as of the same date in 2010.
- During 2010, 119 inmates were removed from under sentence: 46 were executed, 20 died by means other than execution, and 53 were removed as a result of sentences or convictions overturned or commutations of sentences.
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As 2011 comes to a close, the global economy is facing yet another economic slowdown. Based on household survey data from 2010 and labor market indicators through the third quarter of 2011, the World Bank draws key lessons from the impact of the Great Recession of 2008/2009 and the quick recovery on Latin America and the Caribbean’s poor and explores their implications for poverty reduction in the region going forward.
According to the new brief, On the Edge of Uncertainty: Poverty Reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean during the Great Recession and Beyond, even during the recession Latin America managed to reduce poverty levels. Then, as it quickly rebounded in 2010, poverty dropped even faster — by 12.6 million — and continued to decline throughout 2011. Today, we can safely say that moderate poverty in Latin America has dropped by 73 million since 2003.
The recent Occupy Wall Street protests have focused public attention on what organizers see as the excesses of America’s free market system, but perceptions of capitalism – and even of socialism – have changed little since early 2010 despite the recent tumult.
The American public’s take on capitalism remains mixed, with just slightly more saying they have a positive (50%) than a negative (40%) reaction to the term. That’s largely unchanged from a 52% to 37% balance of opinion in April 2010.
Socialism is a negative for most Americans, but certainly not all. Six-in-ten (60%) say they have a negative reaction to the word; 31% have a positive reaction. Those numbers are little changed from when the question was last asked in April 2010.
Of these terms, socialism is the more politically polarizing – the reaction is almost universally negative among conservatives, while generally positive among liberals. While there are substantial differences in how liberals and conservatives think of capitalism, the gaps are far narrower. Most notably, liberal Democrats and Occupy Wall Street supporters are as likely to view capitalism positively as negatively. And even among conservative Republicans and Tea Party supporters there is a significant minority who react negatively to capitalism.
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Twenty portable x-ray suppliers exhibited questionable billing patterns according to criteria we established. In addition, Medicare paid approximately $12.8 million for return trips to nursing facilities on a single day and, contrary to Federal regulations, Medicare paid approximately $6.6 million for services ordered by nonphysicians (which are not covered).Medicare paid approximately $225 million for x-rays of the extremities, pelvis, spine, skull, chest, and abdomen rendered in 2009 by portable x-ray suppliers. Portable x-ray suppliers are entities that furnish x-rays at a beneficiary’s location using mobile diagnostic equipment. Medicare pays portable x-ray suppliers separately for the transportation and setup of the mobile equipment in addition to the administration of the test and interpretation of the results. Pursuant to Federal regulations, portable x-rays must be ordered by a licensed physician. We used 2008 and 2009 Medicare claims data, nursing home stay data, and provider enrollment data to examine portable x-ray suppliers’ billing patterns and to identify individual claims that may warrant further review.We identified 20 suppliers with billing patterns that met our criteria for questionable billing patterns. We also found that Medicare paid approximately $12.8 million for return trips to nursing facilities on a single day. Lastly, contrary to Federal regulations, Medicare paid approximately $6.6 million for services ordered by nonphysicians.We recommend that CMS:(1) Take appropriate action on portable x-ray suppliers referred by OIG,(2) Establish a process to periodically identify portable x-ray suppliers that merit greater scrutiny and follow up as appropriate,(3) Determine what portion of the $12.8 million it paid for return trips in 2009 actually reimbursed suppliers for incorrectly billed transportation component claims and collect any overpayments,(4) Collect the $6.6 million in overpayments it made for portable x-ray services rendered in 2009 that were ordered by nonphysicians, and(5) Implement procedures to ensure that it pays for portable x-ray services only when they are ordered by a physician and establish appropriate controls.CMS concurred with our recommendations.
Background: The human cerebrum is asymmetrical, consisting of two hemispheres with differing functions. Recent epidemiological and neurobiological research has shed new light on the development of the cerebral lateralization of motor processes, including handedness. In this article, we present these findings from a medical perspective.
Method: We selectively searched the PubMed online database for articles including the terms “handedness,” “left handedness,” “right handedness,” and “cerebral lateralization.” Highly ranked and commonly cited articles were included in our analysis.
Results: The emergence of handedness has been explained by physiological and pathological models. Handedness arose early in evolution and has probably been constitutive for the development of higher cognitive functions. For instance, handedness may have provided the basis for the development of speech and fine motor skills, both of which have played a critical role in the evolution of mankind. The disadvantages of certain types of handedness are discussed, as some cases seem to be associated with disease.
Conclusion: The consideration of handedness from the epidemiological, neurobiological, and medical points of view provides insight into cerebral lateralization.
See: Understanding Left-Handedness (Science Daily)
Manufacturing hourly compensation costs in the United States in 2010 were lower than in several northern and western European countries, Australia, and Canada, but higher than in the United Kingdom and 19 countries in southern and eastern Europe, Asia, and South America, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today (see chart 1). U.S. hourly compensation costs rose about 2 percent from the previous year to $34.74 (see table 2).
From 1997 to 2010, U.S. compensation cost competitiveness in manufacturing improved relative to all but five countries covered: Brazil, Germany, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan (see table 1).
Contrary to the popular perception that juvenile crime is on the rise, the data reported in this bulletin tell a different story. As detailed in these pages, juvenile arrests for violent offenses declined 10% between 2008 and 2009, and overall juvenile arrests fell 9% during that same period. Between 1994—when the Violent Crime Index arrest rates for juveniles hit a historic high—and 2009, the rate fell nearly 50% to its lowest level since at least 1980. Arrest rates for nearly every offense category for both male and female and white and minority youth were down in 2009.
Although such trends are encouraging, they should not lead to a misplaced sense of compla cency. Juvenile crime and violence continue to plague many communities across the country. During the first decade of the 21st century (2000–2009), juvenile arrests for robbery rose 15%, and arrests for murder were unchanged. Clearly, our work is not finished.
PRC Advisory Opinion Finds USPS Proposal for Retail Closures Lacks Proper Analysis (PDF)
Source: Postal Regulatory Commission
The Postal Regulatory Commission today issued its Advisory Opinion in Docket N2011-1 on the Postal Service’s Retail Access Optimization Initiative (RAOI), a program that identified more than 3,600 post offices and other retail facilities for possible closure this year.
The Postal Service is required to ask the Commission for an Advisory Opinion on any change in nationwide service it proposes. The Commission found that the RAOI is likely to affect access to postal services. The Commission’s primary finding is that the RAOI was not designed to optimize the network. The Commission recommends the use of modern optimization tools and techniques to better maximize net retail revenues while fulfilling statutory service obligations.
Ruth Goldway, Chairman of the PRC explained: “The Commission was unanimous in expressing its concern that the Postal Service’s plan did not and could not, because of lack of data and analysis, determine the facilities most likely to serve the greatest number, reduce the greatest costs, or enhance the potential for growth or stability in the system. We agree that the Postal Service access network should be right-sized but found that the RAOI was not the proper approach to meet that goal.”
The Commission was unable to develop reliable cost savings estimates because the Postal Service does not collect facility-specific revenue and cost data, or separate retail costs from other operational costs. The Commission found that such data should be available for use in comprehensive facility closing plans.
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See also: PRC Annual Report 2011
Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January–June 2011
Preliminary results from the January–June 2011 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that the number of American homes with only wireless telephones continues to grow. More than 3 of every 10 American homes (31.6%) had only wireless telephones (also known as cellular telephones, cell phones, or mobile phones) during the first half of 2011—an increase of 1.9 percentage points since the second half of 2010. In addition, nearly one of every six American homes (16.4%) received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones despite also having a landline telephone. This report presents the most up-to-date estimates available from the federal government concerning the size and characteristics of these populations.
When the President came into office, he said that “protecting the safety of our food and drugs is one of the most fundamental responsibilities government has.” He pledged to strengthen our food safety laws and to enhance the government’s food safety performance.
To help accomplish that goal, the Administration worked with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, and a broad coalition of industry and consumer groups, to enact the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA. FSMA is the most sweeping reform of our food laws in more than 70 years. It will apply modern scientific methods to target and prevent the most significant hazards and hold importers accountable for the safety of the food they bring into this country. FDA is working towards a release of proposed rules to implement FSMA and to build a modern new system of food safety oversight that harnesses the best available practices.
To oversee all of the Administration’s food safety efforts, the President created the Federal Food Safety Working Group, led by our two departments. Partner agencies include the FDA and CDC.
We’re pleased to say that the Working Group’s just released report shows that this Administration has delivered substantial results in the area of food safety. These include stricter standards to prevent contamination of food with dangerous bacteria, stronger surveillance to detect contamination problems earlier, and more rapid response to illness outbreaks.
Despite Increasing Concerns about High Health Care Costs, New Survey Finds Little Support among Americans for Decisions That Limit Use of High-Cost Prescription Drugs and Treatments
A new survey by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Alliance for Aging Research finds that a majority (62%) of Americans oppose decisions by the government or health insurance plans where prescription drugs or medical or surgical treatments are not paid for because the payors determine that the benefits do not justify the cost. The exception is if there’s evidence that something else works equally well but costs less. A majority (64%) of Americans believe the government or health insurance plans should not pay for a more expensive prescription drug or medical or surgical treatment if it has not been shown to work better than less expensive ones. Majorities in Italy and Germany share both of these beliefs with the U.S. public. In the United Kingdom, at least a plurality shares these beliefs.
The current trend of rapidly rising health care costs is unsustainable. Many proposed reforms to curb spending rely on some type of rationing imposed by an unaccountable government body. A better alternative would be to allow individual consumers to make their own decisions about care, including the self-rationing of medical services, based on cost and their own desires. Such a policy is compatible with American values of limited government and individual liberty and responsibility. State and federal policymakers should adopt measures to facilitate personal control of health care decisions.
As Deportations Rise to Record Levels, Most Latinos Oppose Obama’s PolicySource: Pew Hispanic Center
By a ratio of more than two-to-one (59% versus 27%), Latinos disapprove of the way the Obama administration is handling deportations of unauthorized immigrants, according to a new national survey of Latino adults by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
Deportations have reached record levels under President Obama, rising to an annual average of nearly 400,0001 since 2009, about 30% higher than the annual average during the second term of the Bush administration and about double the annual average during George W. Bush’s first term.
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New GAO ReportSource: Government Accountability Office
Higher Education and Disability: Improved Federal Enforcement Needed to Better Protect Students’ Rights to Testing Accommodations. GAO-12-40, November 29.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized the 2012 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2). EPA continues to support greater use of renewable fuels within the transportation sector every year through the RFS2 program, which encourages innovation, strengthens American energy security, and decreases greenhouse gas pollution.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established the RFS2 program and the annual renewable fuel volume targets, which steadily increase to an overall level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates a percentage-based standard for the following year. Based on the standard, each refiner and importer determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel.
The final 2012 overall volumes and standards are:
- Biomass-based diesel (1.0 billion gallons; 0.91 percent)
- Advanced biofuels (2.0 billion gallons; 1.21 percent)
- Cellulosic biofuels (8.65 million gallons; 0.006 percent)
- Total renewable fuels (15.2 billion gallons; 9.23 percent)