Main Street is looking ahead to the second half, and business owners aren't feeling very optimistic, according to new data. U.S. small-business confidence fell in June to its lowest level in more than a year amid forecasts of weaker profits and a softening labor market.
The June report comes a day after Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton unveiled the outlines of her economic plan. She focused on protecting workers and wages, and called out the sharing economy as a potential factor in dampened wage growth. And last week, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Americans need to work longer hours to boost economic growth.
In many ways, the focus on hours worked and wages highlight the patchwork of jobs or short-term gigs that many Americans have cobbled together since the Great Recession. And for those workers who have managed to find full-time jobs, the bulk of employment growth since the downturn has focused on lower-wage industries and positions that don't always pay the minimum wage.
Politicians are focusing on traditional Main Street issues because they're "waking up to the fact that we have had 30 years of wage stagnation," said Tom Kochan, professor at MIT Sloan School of Management. And the contract worker trend emerged before the recession and "accelerated" even after the the recession ended, Kochan added.
The reality of the new American worker is "enhanced levels" of part-time jobs that still don't have the cushion of health-care coverage or retirement benefits, said Gary Burtless, senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution.