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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.
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.