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The latest employment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirms two solid trends that I have previously reported on:
- The national recovery continues; but
- Wyoming is still doing poorly by national comparison.
Let us look at the good national news first. The BLS numbers for February 2015 (which are still preliminary) present an encouraging picture of private-sector job creation around the country. In every state except West Virginia, the private sector either exceeds its number of employees from before the recession, or is within a few percent of recovering all jobs lost.
In fact, in 31 states private sector employment is at an all time high. Notably, even in the District of Columbia there are now more private-sector jobs than ever before.
Of the remaining 19 states, 14 are less than two percent away from having restored the number of jobs they had prior to the recession. The five states that have a wider gap to fill are:
|Gap to pre-recession employment|
It is also encouraging to see that job growth almost exclusively is coming from the private sector. Nationally, 83.8 percent of all employed Americans work for a private employer, a number that has ticked up slowly during the recovery. In some states the private sector is notably more important as an employer, with the highest share of private-sector employment being found in:
At the same time, seven states have an private employment share below 80 percent:
The three states where state government revenue depends the most on severance tax revenue (or at least has depended on it historically) are also the states with the lowest share of private sector employment. It is not hard to explain this: government de facto considers severance tax revenue to be free money; when money is "free" people, including politicians, tend to believe they can do whatever they want with it.
But why hire more government workers? I will leave the answer to this question to our Wyoming state lawmakers to answer. After all, they are the ones who have seen to it that Wyoming has the highest ratio of state and local government employees per 1,000 private employees in the country. (The government employment in the data reported above includes federal employees.) Here we are competing with Alaska for the lowest ratio of private-sector workers in the country.
Should not Wyoming, the land of the free-roaming American spirit and the home of the brave fiscal conservatives, lead the nation in private-sector job employment?
Our state's poor ability to create new jobs is, again, illustrated by the fact that we are the sixth worst in recovering jobs lost to the recession. In view of our state government's pending budget problems, this does not bode well. Our state lawmakers must start fighting our structural deficit now, before it blows up in the budget. If they don't, there is a big risk that once the deficit hits the fiscal fan they resort to panic-driven tax increases. That would easily throw us back to the bottom position in terms of private-sector job creation.
There is still time for our state lawmakers to address the structural deficit the right way. But the job numbers reported here clearly show that their options for actually responding to the deficit are limited.
We continue looking at our juvenile population starting with Wyoming’s child wellness as reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, (AECF), a private non-profit foundation dedicated to juvenile and family issues, and its subsidiary, Kids Count, which publishes an annual report ranking states according to measured child wellness indicators.
In previous parts of this series we’ve examined Wyoming’s overall rating (19th in the nation, worsening from 15th in 2013.) Additionally we have highlighted the troubling issue of Wyoming’s dropouts and deaths. Another factor that is widely believed linked to decreased juvenile achievement and increased antisocial behavior is juvenile drinking and drug abuse.
Next month the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) will present yet another quarterly report on the state government's finances. It is not exactly a wild guess that the report will reinforce the gloomy lookout for the state budget. Little if anything has changed for the better since the January report.
More than likely, the next CREG report will reinforce the prediction of a deficit in the state budget that will not go away in the foreseeable future. Even though CREG has not spelled it out yet, their data clearly indicate that Wyoming has a deeper state budget problem than what can be managed with short-term policy fixes.
As I explained last week, one of the effects of the comparatively strong U.S. economy is that the dollar grows stronger vs. other major currencies. The appreciation of the dollar has been particularly noticeable vs. the euro: in May last year a euro cost almost $1.39; last week the exchange rate was down to $1.06 per euro.
A stronger dollar has two effects on the U.S. economy. The first is related to inflation: while our imports are small as a share of GDP compared to other major industrialized countries, there is nevertheless a direct tie to household cost of living. Much of our daily consumer goods are imported, and not just from China. Increasingly, major retailers like Wal-Mart are buying from South Asian and African countries. A stronger dollar will reinforce this trend, with the effect of continued downward pressure on consumer goods prices: in addition to the lower production costs the strong dollar allows foreign manufacturers to sell at low prices in the United States and still rake in good profits.
In this part of the Wyoming Wellness series we look a bit more closely at a few of the specific wellness indicators related to child and teen deaths and teens who are not in school and not employed. Our starting point for following these wellness metrics is the 2014 Child Wellnessreport published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count initiative.