Economic Notes

Did you happen to catch this little detail in yesterday’s news about the old A & P grocery chain filing bankruptcy:

More than 90% of A&P’s workers are union members, with 35 different collective-bargaining agreements that A&P said require benefit increases that are unsustainable. A&P said it would try to negotiate immediate changes to the contracts to prevent “catastrophic” results on sales, but otherwise will seek court orders to force the contract changes.

Gee: I wonder if those labor agreements have something to do with the chain’s uncompetitive cost structure and declining business prospects.

Meanwhile, from our “Don’t Look Now But. . .” file, the Chinese stock market seems to have stabilized after a significant correction that could be confused for a crash. But then there’s this little detail reported yesterday:

China may have the world’s second-biggest stock market after the U.S., but at one point during a roller-coaster ride for investors this month only 93 of 2,879 listed companies were freely tradable—about the same number as trade in Oman.

On July 9, a day after the market hit bottom, just 3.2% of Chinese-listed companies could be traded normally, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal using FactSet data. The rest of the shares on the Shenzhen and Shanghai stock exchanges either were suspended or hit their daily limit. China’s market rules prevent share prices from moving freely once they rise or fall by 10%.

When only 3.2 percent of listed shares are trading freely, you don’t have a very healthy market.

Finally, Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell wrote Monday of the defects of raising the minimum wage, which raises the question, “How the hell did this much sense get into the Post?”

Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and a host of other well-intentioned liberals want to hike the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

This is a badly misguided idea. . .

In some parts of the country, where the cost of living is relatively steep, a $15 minimum wage might put more money into the pockets of workers while eliminating relatively few jobs. Think of cities such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and the District, all of which have either proposed or already adopted a $15 minimum.

Even in these expensive cities, though, don’t be surprised if you see fewer busboys, grocery baggers and other low-level jobs. The higher wage floor will make at least some such positions cost-prohibitive.

In other, lower-cost parts of the country, however, a $15 minimum — which, remember, is more than double the current federal level — would likely throw many, many more people out of work. . . doubling the federal minimum in one fell swoop would hurt many of the workers it’s intended to protect.


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