Council of Economic Advisers Blog

  • Leading Academics Discuss Changes in Family Life and Implications for 21st Century Workplaces

    In advance of the White House Summit on Working Families next month, we have engaged working families, business leaders, and other stakeholders from around the country to determine how best to meet the needs of 21st century families and workplaces. We continued this important conversation by meeting with academics to discuss the most recent research on working families, including changing demographics, modern marriage, workplace flexibility, and effective management practices that boost companies’ bottom lines by boosting the productivity of their workers.

    At the meeting, researchers painted a picture of changing family life with fewer families having separate roles for men and women and more families struggling to combine work with their caregiving responsibilities. They also discussed the differing needs of families across the income distribution. College-educated women have children later when they are in jobs that are more demanding, but have greater income and potential for flexibility. In contrast, less-educated women are having children younger, in their early to mid-twenties, when they are in less stable jobs that are less likely to provide them with access to family and medical leave. Middle-class couples are marrying less often and later in life, cohabitation has become more common across all income levels, and divorce rates have fallen, although most notably among highly educated couples.

    Research has shown that parents, particularly those who are highly educated, are spending more time with children, leaving less time for leisure. The role of mothers and fathers are converging as men are spending more time on housework and child care and both men and women are increasingly expecting women to be in the labor force. At the same time, both men and women are increasingly saying that work is interfering with family life. And since Americans are living and working longer, periods where workers will need to take time out of the labor force to provide care for themselves, their children, or their aging parents will only become more common.

  • New Report: The All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy as a Path to Sustainable Economic Growth

    “We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”  President Barack Obama, March 15, 2012

    The U.S. energy sector is undergoing a profound transformation. The United States is producing more oil and natural gas, is generating more electricity from renewables such as wind and solar, and is consuming less petroleum while holding electricity consumption constant. As detailed in today’s report from the Council of Economic Advisers, these developments have had substantial economic and energy security benefits, and they are helping to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sector and thereby tackle the challenge posed by climate change. These trends have been supported and advanced by President Obama’s All-of-the-Above energy strategy.

    The President’s All-of-the-Above energy strategy has three key goals:

    1. To support economic growth and job creation
    2. To enhance energy security
    3. To deploy low-carbon energy technologies and lay the foundation for a clean energy future

    KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS

    1. Decades-long trends in energy use are being reversed. The U.S. is the world’s leading producer of petroleum and natural gas, surpassing long-standing petro-states Saudi Arabia and Russia. Accompanying these increases has been an unexpected turnaround in petroleum and gasoline demand; while industry-standard projections by the Energy Information Administration from as late as 2006 suggested ever-increasing consumption of oil and gasoline, U.S. gasoline consumption has fallen by 5.5 percent since 2007, or nearly half a million barrels per day. At the same time, production of renewable energy has increased rapidly.  Since 2008, electricity production generation from wind has tripled while solar generation is up more than ten-fold.

  • Second Estimate of GDP for the First Quarter of 2014

    Today’s GDP revision was due almost entirely to a downward revision to the highly volatile inventories category, with small upward revisions to consumer spending and business fixed investment being offset by small downward revisions to net exports and state and local purchases. Overall the first quarter was subject to a number of notable influences, including historically severe winter weather, which temporarily lowered growth. A range of more up-to-date data from March and April, including jobs, manufacturing, housing and other indicators, provide a more accurate and timely picture of where the economy is today and show that it continues to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. The President will do everything he can either by acting through executive action or by working with Congress to push for steps that would raise growth and accelerate job creation, including fully paid-for investments in infrastructure, education and research, a reinstatement of extended unemployment insurance benefits, and an increase in the minimum wage.

    FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE BUREAU OF ECONOMIC ANALYSIS

    1. Real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 1.0 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter of 2014, according to the second estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This drop follows an increase of 3.4 percent annual pace in the second half of 2013. Looking at the various components of GDP, consumer spending grew at a rapid pace, mainly reflecting sharp increases in health care and utilities consumption, while the other elements of consumer spending on net rose only slightly. Consumer spending on food services and accommodations fell for the first time in four years, one of several components that was likely affected by unusually severe winter weather. Exports and inventory investment, two particularly volatile components of GDP, also subtracted from growth.

  • Alongside Expanded Coverage, Underlying Slow Growth in Health Costs Is Continuing

    It is no secret that the last several months have seen dramatic progress in expanding access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.  Over the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period, more than 8 million people signed up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces, and, through March 2014, 4.8 million people gained coverage through Medicaid or CHIP.  Meanwhile, multiple independent surveys have reported sharp drops in the share of Americans without health insurance.

    What is not widely known is that the last several months have also seen a steady stream of good news on health care costs.  This good news suggests that even as coverage expands, the underlying slow growth in health care prices, per-enrollee spending, and premiums that we have seen in recent years is continuing.  That slow cost growth, which is thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, is helping keep families’ premiums and out-of-pocket costs down, making it easier for businesses to hire workers and pay a good wage, and improving our fiscal future.

  • Making Full Use of America's Talent

    This was originally posted on the Huffington Post, and is part of a series of essays about the issues facing working families in the 21st century, leading up to the White House Summit on Working Families on June 23, 2014.

    You can learn more about the Summit and how you can get involved at www.workingfamiliessummit.org.


    I told a friend recently that I thought that I was failing at everything -- my kids weren’t getting enough of me, I wasn’t doing everything that I wanted to at work, and I wasn’t spending enough time with my partner. Her response was to congratulate me for getting my work-life balance just right.

    As an economist, I’ve spent my career thinking about trade-offs and how to make good decisions given all of the constraints -- like money, time, and opportunities -- that we face. And I know it is hard. When kids are young, their demands on parents’ time is enormous, and the same thing is true when partners or parents or children are sick. We all have periods in our life where our home needs are greater than at other times.

    Most people I know address these challenges by eliminating everything outside of work and family. Getting together with childless friends becomes a luxury, exercise becomes impossible --unless you count lifting a heavy load of laundry with one arm, while holding an infant with the other, “exercise” -- and a good night’s sleep becomes a distant memory. A friend recently complained to me that the grocery store she placed online orders with was no longer taking orders between 2 and 5 a.m. “But that’s my only window for grocery shopping,” she wailed.

    And yet, my friends and I are among the lucky ones. I’ve spent most of my career as an academic. I work hard on research, teaching, and writing, but I set my own hours and I control my own pace of work. When I had each of my children, I had months during which I was able to work from home, doing only as much as I could handle. My partner, a fellow academic, had the same luxury.

  • The Employment Situation in April

    Employment growth was solid in April, as businesses added jobs for the 50th consecutive month, and the unemployment rate fell. The employment data can fluctuate from month-to-month, and while this month’s report happens to be above expectations, it is still broadly consistent with the recent trends we have been seeing in the labor market. The President continues to emphasize that more can and should be done to support the recovery, including acting on his own executive authority to expand economic opportunity, as well as pushing Congress for additional investments in infrastructure, education and research, an increase in the minimum wage, and a reinstatement of extended unemployment insurance benefits. In fact, CEA estimates that because of the failure to continue extended benefits into 2014, the economy has already incurred the loss of 80,000 jobs so far this year. Failure to reinstate extended unemployment insurance benefits is expected to cost another 160,000 jobs over the balance of the year.

    FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

    1. The private sector has added 9.2 million jobs over 50 straight months of job growth. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 288,000 in April, driven by a 273,000 increase in private employment. Job growth in February and March was revised up, so that that over the past twelve months, private employment has risen by 2.4 million, or an average of 198,000 a month. This is slightly faster than the pace of job gains over the preceding twelve-month period (182,000 a month).