Sanctuary Cities Targeted, Job Openings at Record High
August 08, 2017
The Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is targeting sanctuary cities. The Interior Department is looking to expand mining and drilling on federal and native land. Job openings hit a record high and small business confidence rises.
- U.S. Interior Department rolls back Obama-era coal rule. The U.S. Department of the Interior reformed a rule dealing with how energy companies value sales of oil, gas, and coal extracted from federal and tribal land. The old rule allowed companies to value their commodity, and thus, their royalty payments based on the first unaffiliated sale, known as the “arm’s length sale.” However, companies would merely sell their energy to brokers at lower prices, and thus were able to export their goods to Asia at lower domestic prices. A taxpayer watchdog group found that $30 billion in lost revenue resulted from this loophole, causing three industry groups to sue over the rule in an attempt to close it. The Interior Secretary has dismissed the rule, citing “industry confusion,” and plans to create in its place “workable valuation regulations.” [Reuters]
- Sanctuary Cities sue Justice Department over federal funding threats. Chicago officials filed a lawsuit on Monday, alleging that withholding federal funding from cities who refuse to comply with ICE rules on reporting and detaining undocumented immigrants in local or county jails is unconstitutional. The city joins the ranks of other “sanctuary cities” who refuse to comply with the Trump administration’s attempts to crack down on illegal immigration and deport undocumented immigrants. While a federal judge blocked an executive order last year to deny such cities all federal funding (highway funds, education funding, Medicaid), this new rule could potentially impact funding for police departments and crime fighting grants, tightening typically spare local budgets in already distressed cities. The case seems likely to make its way up to the Supreme Court. [Washington Post]
Economic Indicators & News
- Monthly Job Openings at Record High. The number of job openings or JOLTS, calculated at the end of each month, posted record high numbers this past June, at 6.2 million. The figure, a strong indicator of continued economic growth and a tightening labor market, will be closely watched by the Fed as rate increases are debated internally. Job openings were most concentrated in business and professional services, with healthcare and construction coming close behind. The Midwest and West experienced the highest increase in openings, while the North East’s openings decreased slightly. [CNBC]
- Small business confidence picks up. An index measuring small business confidence measured by the National Association of Independent Businesses picked up at the end of July, boosted mainly by increases in consumer spending. Solid hiring and good jobs data from last week also helped to support a positive picture for small business owners. Business owners indicated that 60% of businesses would be trying to hire or are hiring, a 6-point increase from the previous month. However, a tightening labor market has made it more difficult for business owners to find qualified workers, with 87% of business owners stating they were having a difficult time finding qualified workers. [Reuters]