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

honors
May 26, 2015

Writer Flannery O'Connor will be honored with a Forever postage stamp, the U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday.

The stamp for 3-ounce packages will debut on June 5 and feature peacock feathers, the Los Angeles Times reports, a nod to the fact that O'Connor raised peacocks on her family's farm in Georgia. O'Connor was born in Savannah in 1925, and wrote Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor won a 1972 National Book Award for fiction, and was named the Best of the National Book Awards 1950-2008 by a public vote.

O'Connor, who died in 1964 at the age of 39, primarily wrote in the Southern Gothic style. According to her autobiographer, Brad Gooch, "O'Connor said that modern writers must often tell 'perverse' stories to 'shock' a morally blind world. 'It requires considerable courage,' she concluded, 'not to turn away from the story-teller.'" Catherine Garcia

Quotables
May 26, 2015
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The Vatican's top diplomat said on Tuesday that the legalization of gay marriage in Ireland is a "defeat for humanity."

At a news conference in Rome, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state and second to the pope in the Holy See's hierarchy, said he was "deeply saddened by the result" of the vote. "The church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelization," he added.

After Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote last week, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin made a less inflammatory statement, saying, "It is very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people... [then the church needs] a reality check." The Guardian points out that Pope Francis has also referred to something as a "defeat for humanity," but in the pontiff's case, he was talking about war. Catherine Garcia

Emails
May 26, 2015
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In a court filing, the State Department proposed posting online large bundles of Hillary Clinton's emails from her time as secretary of state every 60 days, starting on June 30.

"The department will strive to produce as many documents as possible on each production date, and will file a status report one week after each production to inform the court of the number of pages posted," Justice Department lawyers wrote. "The department is keenly aware of the intense public interest in the documents and wants to get releasable materials out as soon as possible."

The State Department last week proposed that it have until January to produce the bulk of the emails, but U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered they release the emails on a rolling basis. The department said it will get every email out by January, Politico reports, but hopes to get them all released before then. Catherine Garcia

scary
May 26, 2015

A bomb threat made by an anonymous caller on Tuesday targeted EVA Air Flight 12 as it flew from Taipei to Los Angeles.

After it landed safely at around 3:30 p.m., the plane was directed to a secure area reserved for planes that are experiencing problems, CBS Los Angeles reports. At about 5:30 p.m., passengers began to get off the plane and were driven away in buses. FBI agents, Homeland Security officials, and Los Angeles Police Department officers are all on the scene, and in a statement, the FBI said that "all threats, regardless of known credibility, are taken seriously."

On Monday, at least six anonymous calls were placed threatening international flights as they headed to airports in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Authorities said those threats, which were not credible, could have been made by the same source, but did not say if there is a connection to the threat made against the EVA flight. Catherine Garcia

that's not good
May 26, 2015
iStock

A new study published in the journal BMJ has found that women who take birth control pills that use newer types of the progestin hormone have three times the risk of developing blood clots compared with women not taking the oral contraceptive.

Blood clots have been a known risk of taking the pill since the 1990s. Drugmakers have been changing the progesterone levels of the pill since it was first introduced in 1960 in order to lower side effects like weight gain and acne. Those tweaks could be the reason why the risk of blood clots went up, considering that the scientists adjusted for factors like cancer, varicose veins, smoking, and obesity on the risk of blood clots, and the link between newer contraceptives and an increased risk of blood clots remained high, Time reports.

"Our study suggests that the newer contraceptives have a higher risk of [blood clots] than the older agents," Yana Vinogradova, research fellow at the University of Nottingham and lead for the study, told Time. "While [blood clots] are a relatively rare problem, they are serious and potentially avoidable with the appropriate drug choice. Doctors need to consider all health issues when prescribing contraceptives, selecting a drug type associated with the lowest risk for patients with particular susceptibilities." Catherine Garcia

media news
May 26, 2015

Vox Media has acquired Revere Digital, the parent company of the tech website Re/code.

Re/code was started by journalists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg about 18 months ago after they left The Wall Street Journal, Mashable reports. In a post on Re/code, Swisher and Mossberg wrote that the site will "continue to publish under the same name and leadership, with editorial independence." Re/code will "collaborate where appropriate" with Vox Media's tech news site, The Verge, and and will "benefit from joining Vox Media by integrating Vox Media's various capabilities — including marketing, communications, audience development, sales, and production." Catherine Garcia

Cyber Crime
May 26, 2015
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

From February to May, data thieves were able to gain access to the tax return information for roughly 100,000 taxpayers, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Tuesday.

During those four months, the thieves attempted to get information 200,000 times through the agency's "Get Transcript" online application, Reuters reports, and were successful about half of the time. It wasn't a hack, since the cyber criminals already had names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and other personal information that they used to access the system. IRS data outside of the application was not affected, and the agency said it plans to strengthen its security measures.

Koskinen did not share any information on who might have been behind the attack, and said the data theft was intended to steal information in order to submit fraudulent tax returns next year. "We're confident these are not amateurs," he said. "These are actually organized crime syndicates that not only we but everyone in the financial industry are dealing with." Catherine Garcia

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