Lawrence Mishel

Lawrence Mishel is president of the Economic Policy Institute, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States and around the world. EPI's mission is to inform people and empower them to seek solutions that will ensure broadly shared prosperity and opportunity.

Recent Articles

Rising Tides, Sinking Wages

The economy has grown, productivity is up, profits are soaring. There's just one problem: Americans' standard of living.

T he economy seems to be in great shape. The growth rate in 1994 was a brisk 4.1 percent. Unemployment has been hovering at about 5.5 percent, well below the 6 to 6.5 percent level that many economists (wrongly) consider full employment. Job growth has been so strong that President Clinton's campaign pledge to create eight million jobs may well be fulfilled in the third year of his first term. Corporate profitability has reached postwar records. The stock market is booming. Inflation is nowhere to be found except in the imagination of central bankers and bond traders. We are also witnessing a revival of productivity growth and a celebration of America's renewed competitiveness, as U.S. products close the quality gap with imported goods and unit labor costs continuously fall relative to those of other advanced countries. Some analysts feel that our productivity growth is so strong and the promise of computerization so great that we are on the verge of a new, golden economic age. There'...

Behind the Numbers: Capital's Gain

Contrary to the conventional view among economists, the shares of national income going to capital and labor have shifted. Capital's gain has been labor's loss.

T he income squeeze on the middle class is the big economic story of this decade, but record-setting stock prices and soaring executive pay remind us that not everyone is experiencing a squeeze. The stock market boom and the executive windfalls, in turn, reflect growth in corporate profits. And the contrast between spectacular profit trends and the disappointing wage growth could not be more dramatic. This disparity reopens the rather impolite question of whether we are observing a significant redistribution of income from labor to capital. Most economists have insisted that we are not. But the latest data strongly show that a nontrivial redistribution of what economists call "factor incomes" has indeed taken place in the 1990s, with the foundation having been laid in the 1980s. The primary evidence of this shift is that the current rate of return to capital—profits and interest income per dollar of assets—is very high by historical standards and is high relative to similar returns in...

The Myth of the Coming Labor Shortage

According to the Department of Labor, the demand for higher skills is rising rapidly, while the “quality” of America’s workforce is declining. Neither assertion is true, but the mythology is steering policymakers in the wrong direction, away from efforts to upgrade jobs.

Recent discussions of the future of work and employment have assumed a coming "labor shortage," as well as a "skills mismatch" between the characteristics of American workers and the needs of employers. This view has been widely propagated by the Department of Labor under Presidents Reagan and Bush. As Elizabeth Dole put it while she was Secretary of Labor, "America faces a work force crisis" because there are a diminishing number of people eligible and qualified "for the ever-increasing complexity of jobs in our economy." This view draws heavily on the widely disseminated Workforce 2000 report, prepared by the Hudson Institute for the Department of Labor. At bottom, here is the thesis: Rapid growth of high-skilled professional and technical occupations and the service sector is said to be increasing the demand for workers of higher skill. But because of slow labor force growth and the dominance of minorities and women among labor force entrants, the pool of new workers is shrinking,...