Friday Roundup: Pension reform, Seattle’s rules for unionizing gig economy, cautious manufacturers, real estate markets

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

The American Interest: California Supreme Court Justices Could Make or Break Pension Reform

A state appeals court gave some hope to California taxpayers earlier this year when it upheld a 2012 pension reform law which authorized local governments to crack down on “pension spiking,” by which public employees manipulated the rules to receive higher-than-anticipated lifetime benefits upon retiring. That ruling has been appealed, and now the seven justices on the California State Supreme Court have the power to either pave the way for a rationalization of the decrepit system or else deal a major setback to the reform effort…

Courts across the country have interpreted their state constitutions to be highly protective of public sector pensions, even as unions and legislatures mismanage them, so it’s anyone guess how the California justices will rule. But the outcome of the case will reverberate far and wide.

Seattle Times: Seattle unveils rules for unionizing Uber, Lyft drivers

Teamsters Local 117 and other drivers have pushed for stricter criteria, saying people making a living primarily by driving should control their own circumstances.

The assumption has been that full-time drivers are more likely to support unionization and part-time drivers are less so.

Where has FAS landed? The department’s proposed rulewould give a say only to drivers who have been with a company for the past 90 days and who have made at least 52 trips to or from Seattle during any three-month period in the past 12 months.

Lexington Herald: Kentucky’s public pension outlook weakens; debt grows to $32.6 billion 

Kentucky’s unfunded public pension liability has grown from $30.5 billion to $32.6 billion, a debt that threatens to undermine every other service the state provides, an oversight panel was told Monday…

Kentucky’s pension problem resulted from two decades of inadequate contributions from the state, a shortfall the legislature has only addressed in the last few years; weak investment returns; and unrealistic assumptions about how many public employees there would be (fewer than predicted), how much they would earn (less than predicted) and how long they would live (longer than predicted).

Once again, Seattle is among the hottest markets in the annual forecast of Emerging Trends in Real Estate by the Urban Land Institute and PwC. For 2017, Seattle ranks fourth in overall prospects among the markets to watch, behind Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Portland. It ranks first in investor demand as capital is expected to continue streaming here.

We have seen a steady stream of good economic numbers in the past few weeks, including today’s jobs numbers. First and foremost, the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, its lowest level since August 2007. At the same time, nonfarm payrolls rose by 178,000, which was on par with the consensus estimate of around 180,000. Overall, this mirrors healthier figures for consumer spending and improved business sentiment in recent data, and these reports show that the U.S. economy has strengthened. This should help cement a Federal Reserve rate hike at their upcoming meeting on December 13-14.

Despite these positives, manufacturers have continued to struggle, as evidenced by the loss of 4,000 workers in November, with 60,000 fewer workers on net year-to-date. It was the fourth straight monthly decline for employment in the sector.