FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
Economics
March 2, 2014

Evan Soltas asks, "Is the labor market getting tight?"

He claims that the rising rate of workers quitting their jobs could show that the labor market is getting tighter. Workers quitting their jobs at a higher rate is taken as an expression of confidence. As Joe Weisenthal argues, "When the economy is bad, workers don't quit their jobs." The quit rate shows that the relationship between unemployment rate and quit-rates has remained steady, suggesting that it's the headline unemployment rate — which has now fallen to 6.6 percent — that best captures the state of the workforce.

Of course, what the rate of quits tells us is the rate of quits. People quit their jobs for all sorts of reasons, and even though the rate of quits is tightly correlated against unemployment, reading the rate of quits as a proxy for the tightness of the labor market is a risky extrapolation, and overlooks the bigger picture.

To assess the tightness of the labor market, we need a concept of the natural rate of unemployment. There is lots of argument over what we should mean by the "natural rate of unemployment," but the most popular definition is from Milton Friedman and Edmund Phelps, who defined it as the rate of unemployment consistent with output being at the "long-run" level. And what's very clear is that output is still in a big slump after 2008, way below its long-run trend:

[Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]

So even if we assume that the headline unemployment rate is the best measurement of tightness in the labor market, 6.6 percent (which translates to millions of people who want a job but can't find one) is still very slack because the economy is way below potential. John Aziz

$$$$$
2:07 a.m. ET

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Greenpeace USA was in civil contempt due to protesters blocking a Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker from leaving Portland, Oregon, for the Arctic. She also fined the organization $2,500 for each hour of the demonstration.

Throughout the day, protesters dangled from the St. Johns Bridge and activists in kayaks and canoes blocked the Fennica in the Willamette River. The goal, The Oregonian reports, was for the demonstrators to delay the ship for so long that it would lose a year of drilling work. The ship did have to turn around earlier on Thursday, but it later returned and law enforcement cut the lines of the protesters on the bridge, making a hole for the Fennica to squeeze through at around 6 p.m. The last demonstrator came down soon after. "It was tough to see the boat go through there, but every second counts," protester Razz Gormley said. "I consider this a victory." Catherine Garcia

it's just business
1:30 a.m. ET
Facebook.com/FlynnsRestaurant

After asking a diner to take her crying toddler outside and being told to "f—k off," an Australian chef and restaurant owner decided the time had come to ban children under the age of seven from eating in his establishment.

Liam Flynn, who has operated Flynn's in Yungaburra, Queensland, for 14 years, shared the news in a Facebook post, which was met with both enthusiasm and disappointment. "We've had mums and parents who feel that it's just outright discrimination, but it's mostly been positive,” he told Business Insider. "I've had a lot of support. ... There are a lot of parents out there who understand where we're coming from."

Over the past weekend, it became clear he made the right decision: Flynn's had its best Saturday and Sunday ever in terms of sales. "Business is booming," he said. "People are spending up large, drinking fine wine." It's important to note that while children under seven are asked to stay home, dogs of any age are welcome at Flynn's any time. Catherine Garcia

last night on late night
12:58 a.m. ET

Rapper and actor Ice T has a voice that's instantly recognizable — as long as you've sat through at least one Law & Order: SVU marathon, you know it when you hear it. Thanks to The Tonight Show, we now have an idea of what it would have sounded like if he had voiced some of our favorite cartoon characters, including Papa Smurf and Grumpy Bear. Sure, they're a whole lot edgier than they were originally, but only a Care Bear voiced by Ice T could get away with talking about turning a Roomba into a bong. Watch the clip (which has some strong language) below. Catherine Garcia

campaign 2016
12:18 a.m. ET
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

It looks like Donald Trump won't be giving away rides on his luxurious, ultra-classy helicopter in Iowa any time soon.

After initially telling The Daily Mail that he was going to attend "The World's Fair," the GOP presidential candidate clarified on Wednesday that he was really planning on flying his chopper out to Iowa for the state fair. "I'm going to try giving kids lifts in the helicopter," he said. "You know, young kids. Yeah! If I can do it — if I'm allowed to do it. ... It'll be magnificent."

Unfortunately for Trump, it's going to remain a magnificent dream. A spokeswoman for the fair told the Des Moines Register that Trump has not asked for permission, and if he does, he'll be denied. "He is welcome to land his helicopter anywhere outside the grounds and take people on rides or whatever he would like to do," she said. "But that will not be happening on Iowa State Fair grounds." Catherine Garcia

the heat is on
July 30, 2015

It may have felt hot where you were on Thursday, but unless you spent time in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, you have nothing to complain about.

The temperature there climbed to 109 degrees Fahrenheit, but the humidity made it "feel like" it was 154 degrees, meteorologist Anthony Sagliani tweeted. It cooled off a bit overnight, but on Friday morning at 6:30 a.m., it was already 88 degrees and feeling like 108, the Weather Channel reports. It's supposed to hit 116 degrees later in the day, so keep the people — and air conditioners — of Bandar Mahshahr in your thoughts. Catherine Garcia

closing time
July 30, 2015

A Civil War-era facility at the Baltimore City Detention Center that critics say should have been "condemned decades ago" will finally be shut down, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Thursday.

The governor considers the Men's Detention Center, which houses 750 pretrial inmates, a "black eye" and "embarrassment" to the state. The inmates will be moved to other detention centers, officials said, but the women's jail, central booking facility, and other pretrial buildings will stay open. By closing the facility, Maryland will save between $10 million and $15 million annually "without compromising detainees' access to legal protections," Stephen T. Moyer, secretary of public safety and correctional services, said.

In 2013, federal prosecutors charged several people, including corrections officers, with letting a gang operate a drug-trafficking and money laundering ring from inside the facility, The Washington Post reports. Hogan said it "makes no sense to keep this deplorable facility open. ... The practice of continuously dumping hard-earned taxpayer money into this disastrous facility will not continue under my watch," and pinned the center's woes on previous administrations, who "ignored" what was going on.

Democratic state lawmakers and union officials criticized Hogan for not discussing the shutdown with them before it was announced. Advocates like David Fathi, director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, told the Post it's a move in the right direction, but won't solve a host of other problems. "This critical step...will have no impact on the dangerous physical conditions and shockingly deficient medical and mental health care in the jail facilities that will remain open," he said. Catherine Garcia

public health
July 30, 2015

In New York City, two people have died in a Legionnaires' disease outbreak, with 31 cases reported in the South Bronx since mid-July.

In the Bronx, water cooling towers at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center and a commercial complex have tested positive for the disease, Capital New York reports. Legionnaires' disease is a respiratory bacterial infection that is not transmitted from person to person but rather through water mist from showers, cooling towers, and air conditioning. A 1976 outbreak in Philadelphia, which mostly affected people attending an American Legion convention, led to its name. Symptoms include fever, chills, and a cough, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that five to 30 percent of those who come down with the disease die.

Officials will test the water from other potential sources in the area, CNN reports, but Dr. Mary Bassett, commissioner of the New York City Health Department, said the city's water supply "does not pose a risk, so people should continue to feel confident in drinking tap water to stay cool during this period of hot weather." Mayor Bill de Blasio recommends that those who have symptoms get tested, and assured the public that most New Yorkers are not at risk Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads