The latest Labor Day Scorecard by Rutgers University shows little good news, even for those American workers lucky enough to have jobs.

The scorecard, released on September 2, shows that the 9.1 percent unemployment rate is slightly lower than a year ago, but twice as high as five or ten years ago. Part-time workers who want full-time jobs have held relatively steady at 16.2 percent.

Though the federal hourly minimum wage remained $7.25, when adjusted for inflation in July, 2010, dollars, buying power decreased 1.2 percent, according to the scorecard. Average hourly earnings for production workers and nonsupervisory personal declined by the same percentage to $19.52. The median weekly earnings of wage and salaried workers dropped from $767 in the second quarter of 2010 to $756 a year later. Meanwhile the average employer cost for wages and salaries plus benefits per hour rose a half-percent to $30.07. Almost all the increase was due to benefits, the costs of which have increased 16.6 percent the past 10 years.

Douglas Kruse, the Rutgers professor who wrote the report, said that “while there have been overall improvements in the past 10 years, the recent recession obviously dealt a real blow to workers. The labor market shows signs of improvement with more job openings and fewer layoffs compared to one year ago, but it will be at least several years before we have a healthy labor market.”

#b#Benefits#/b#. Sixty-nine percent of employees in private industry have access to employer-sponsored health insurance, down from 71 percent since 2010, the scorecard shows. The percentage of workers who participate in employer-offered plans is 51 percent, a relative constant since 2006.

Workers are paying more for coverage, however. In 2010 employees paid $899 for single and $3,997 for family coverage — a 13.5 percent rise in single coverage and an 11.9 percent rise in family coverage over 2009 averages.

The percentage of employer-sponsored retirement plans, as well as employee participation, has remained fairly constant at around 60 percent since 2006, the scorecard shows. The percentage of workers joining plans has remained near 50 percent, and membership in traditional retirement plans compared to those in 40(k) plans also has remained stable.

#b#Gaps#/b#. The scorecard shows continued employment disparities by gender, race, ethnicity, and disability. As of a year ago, the report finds, more men than women were unemployed. Also, more blacks than whites and Hispanics. The unemployment rate for those with disabilities was 15.6 percent compared to 9.3 percent for the non-disabled.

There also are pay disparities in median weekly earnings. The scorecard finds that women earn 16.5 percent less than men, blacks earn 19.1 percent less than whites, and Hispanics earn 26.6 percent less than whites. The gap in average pay for full-time, full-year workers with disabilities versus those without disabilities was 19.6 percent in 2009, which is the latest available set of data.

Households have managed to slightly lower their debt payments as a percentage of income, from 12.39 percent to 11.51 percent between 2010 and 2011. Also, workers have made mild gains in job safety, with only 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2009, compared to 3.7 a year earlier. Fewer workers, however, are union members, — 11.9 percent in 2010 compared to 12.3 percent in 2009.

The full report can be found at http://smlr.rutgers.edu/2011-labor-scorecard

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