U.S. Labor Market Cooling
According to the latest employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), monthly employment totals were lowered by 110,000 in June and July 2023 combined. Over the summer, 150,000 jobs were added on average each month, down from a 238,000 average gain in the spring of this year. These statistics show that the U.S. labor market is markedly cooling. Indeed, the unemployment rate in August rose to 3.8%, up from 3.5% in July. This is the highest unemployment rate in the country since February 2022. Many economists attribute the rise in unemployment to an influx of available workers – indeed, the labor force participation rate has risen to 62.8%. Said Andrew Flowers, lead labor economist at Appcast: “An expanding labor force is a good thing.”
According to Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, the labor market is at “an ideal cruising altitude” – high enough to keep the unemployment rate low, but not so high as to cause a resurgence of inflation. Indeed, the current pace of job creation closely resembles 2019, before the labor market was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Economists such as Flowers predict that the slowdown in jobs growth, combined with the cooling of wage gains, is on target for the Federal Reserve’s desired “soft landing,” which means slowing economic growth without falling into a recession.
DeSantis-Controlled Disney Governing District Abolishes DEI Programs
On August 1, 2023 Walt Disney World’s governing district abolished all diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. The governing district is now heavily controlled by appointees of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has vocalized his support for curtailing DEI programs in higher education and other areas. In February 2023, DeSantis officially took control of the district as part of his war against the entertainment giant known as Disney. This move gave DeSantis the power to select the board members and force Disney to pay $700 million in taxes and debts.
A statement from the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District stated that it will dissolve the district’s DEI committee and eliminate any job duties relating to DEI work. Additionally, district employees will be prohibited from using staff time on any DEI initiatives.
Glenton Gilzean, the district’s new administrator, called DEI initiatives “illegal and simply un-American.” Gilzean has been a fellow or member at two conservative institutions, the James Madison Institute and the American Enterprise Institute Leadership Network. Gilzean was also appointed by DeSantis to the Florida Commission on Ethics.
This change only affects government entities – not the private companies that operate inside the district (i.e. Disney). Disney is currently involved in active litigation against the board and DeSantis in federal court, arguing that the state retaliated against the company for exercising its First Amendment rights when it vocalized its criticism of DeSantis’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Disney has also paused its contributions to Florida political campaigns.
Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that the recent Supreme Court’s university admission cases do not apply in the employment context or to companies’ DEI policies, employers implementing DEI policies should avoid hiring “quotas.” Companies should also not create or set aside job openings that are only available for applicants of a specific race or gender. Due to this area of law’s ever changing nature, companies should have their DEI policies reviewed by legal counsel on a regular basis.