State of the Nation

*Any statements in this issue of the Watch which are not sourced are mine and identified by “WW”.

34% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction while 59% say it is on the wrong track. This is the highest wrong track number since Trump was elected. Just before the election in October 2016 the wrong track number was 65%. (NBC/WSJ, 4/17)


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March 2017 is 4.5%.

If one takes into account the total number of unemployed + those marginally attached to the labor force + those working part-time who want full-time work, the unemployment rate for March 2017 is 8.9%. [BLS data is based on those 16 years of age and older.]

Early in the 3rd week of April 2017, Gallup found an unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.6%. It also found an under-employment rate of 13.8% (unemployed + those working part-time but wanting full-time). [This is based on those 18 years of age and older.]

Industrial robots alone eliminated up to 670,000 American jobs between 1990 and 2007. [WP, 4/10]

There will be 1.4 million more software development jobs than qualified applicants by 2020. There are more than 500,000 computing jobs opening in this country but less than 43,000 computer science students graduated last year. [USA Today, 3/31/17]

In 1923, there were 863,536 coal miners. By the year 2000 there were 108,098 miners. Thereafter there was a surge in the number of coal miners and the number reached 143,437 in 2011. In 2016, there were 81,484 miners. [U.S. Department of Labor]

In 2014, immigrants made up “17.1% of the total U.S. workforce or about 27.6 million workers of a total of 161.4 million.” 19.6 million workers, 12.1% of the total immigrant workforce, were in the U.S. legally. 8 million, or 5%, entered the country illegally or overstayed legitimate visas.

The following are the top 10 industries in which immigrants are a substantial share of the workforce.

  Lawful immigrants Unauthorized immigrants
Private household 24% 22%
Textile, apparel, manufacturing 22% 13%
Agriculture 15% 18%
Accommodation 21% 11%
Food Manufacturing 17% 13%
Computer/Electronic products 22% 5%
Personal and laundry services 19% 7%
Admin support services 14% 11%
Construction 12% 13%
Misc. manufacturing 16% 7%
[PEW, 3/16/17]

There are 373,807 jobs in the solar power sector in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration, compared with 398,235 in the natural gas industry and 160,119 in the coal business. [The New York Times]

There have been nine retail bankruptcies so far in 2017, equal to the total number of bankruptcies in 2016. [538 Newsletter, 4/11]

56% are satisfied with the state of the U.S economy today. This is the highest satisfaction rate since Trump was elected and the highest since January 2002. [NBC/WSJ, 4/17]

30% think the economy is getting better, 18% say it is getting worse and 49% say it is staying the same. [WP/ABC, 4/17]

59% say that economic conditions in the country today are good while 41% say conditions are poor. [CNN/ORC, 4/25]

52% say things are going well in the country today while 44% say things are going badly. [CNN/ORC, 4/25]

The typical Wal-Mart supercenter has 120,000 items available for sale. Wal-Mart has approximately 35 million products online. [Bloomberg]

400 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute. [WSJ]

In a survey of 250 U.S. colleges and universities, 39% of the institutions reported a decline in applications from international students. [NPR]

Morning Consult conducted surveys in December 2016 and April 2017 to assess Americans’ beliefs about the credibility of various news outlets. There is no difference in the order of credibility between December and April. Most of the outlets showed small increases in credibility between December and April.

However, when you look at the difference in credibility scores between Republicans and Democrats there are considerable differences.

Media Credibility December 2016
December 2016 April 2017 Republicans Democrats
ABC 67% ABC 69% Fox 73% ABC 79%
CBS 65% CBS 69% WSJ 64% CBS 79%
NBC 65% NBC 68% ABC 59% NBC 78%
WSJ 64% WSJ 67% CBS 58% CNN 77%
NYT 63% CNN 63% NBC 57% NYT 76%
CNN 60% NYT 62% NYT 52% WSJ 69%
Fox 55% Fox 60% CNN 51% MSNBC 68%
MSNBC 55% MSNBC 59% MSNBC 48% NPR 59%
NPR 51% NPR 56% NPR 46% HuffPo 59%
Huff Po 46% HuffPo 47% HuffPo 37% Fox 45%
Breitbart 19% Breitbart 22% Breitbart 26% The Onion 22%
The Onion 18% The Onion 18% InfoWars 20% Breitbart 17%
    The Onion 16% InfoWars 16%

Amy Walter makes the point that other studies have shown that even when Republicans and Democrats read the same publication, they choose to read stories that comport with their own social/political viewpoint.

Over the last 40 years Americans have lost confidence in a number of American Institutions. But they have gained confidence in a few institutions. [Gallup]

Institutions in which Americans have lost confidence:

Confidence Level

  1973 Other date 2016
The presidency   72% (1992) 36%
U.S. Supreme Court 45%   36%
Congress 42%   8%
Church or Organized Religion 65%   41%
Public Schools 58%   30%
Banks   60% (1985) 27%
Organized labor 30%   23%
Big business 26%   18%
Newspapers   51% (1985) 20%
TV News   46% (1997) 21%

Institutions in which American confidence grew:

  1973 Other date 2016
The military 58%   73%
The police   52% (1995) 56%
Criminal Justice System   17% (1995) 23%

53% of Americans oppose laws requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth rather than their current gender identity. 39% favor such laws.

Republicans favor such laws by 59% to 36%, while 57% of independents and 65% of Democrats oppose the laws.

64% of Americans would not allow small business owners in their state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbians, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

There is broad support (across all major political groups) for laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing, including 70% of all Americans, 60% of Republicans, 72% of Independents and 77% of Democrats. [PRRI, 3/10/17]

Married Americans pay a disproportionate share of total income taxes paid even though the number of married U.S. adults has dropped substantially over the last 45 years.

In 1970, 69% of U.S. adults were married and they paid 80% of the income taxes. By 2014, the number of married filings had dropped to 50% but their share of income taxes dropped only to 74%. [PEW, 4/12/17]

In efforts to “keep the country safe”, 41% of Americans believe that the U.S. has gone too far in infringing on people’s privacy. 20% believe the country has not gone far enough.

If the question asked of respondents is changed so that “keep the country safe” is replaced by “efforts to fight terrorism” the number who believe the country has gone too far drops to 38% and the number who think it has not gone far enough rises to 25%. [NBC NEWS/Survey Monkey, 3/24-28]

In one of her recent Washington Post columns, Catherine Rampell wrote about the recent efforts of liberal-leaning students to stop people with whom they do not agree, from speaking on their respective campuses. In her column she presented five reasons she objects to these efforts. The following are the first sentences from each reason.

“First, you’re giving the speakers you abhor a much bigger platform when you martyr them.”

“Second, suppressing ideas you disagree with dulls your ability to cogently, convincingly rebut them.”

“Third, and relatedly, you’re not actually crushing opposing views by shushing them; you’re merely forcing them underground, where they can fester and mutate into more dangerous forms.”

“Fourth, you may not realize it yet. But you’re breeding resentment and reactionaryism – and turning potential allies into enemies.”

“Finally, the same censorship tools you’ve developed to silence your enemies will be used against you.” [WP, 4/14/17]

This and That

In her April 15-16 WSJ column, Peggy Noonan quoted the following from the famed NYT columnist, Bill Safire.

“Never join a pile-on, always hit ‘em when they are up. Don’t criticize the person who’s already being attacked. What’s the fun in that, where’s the valor? Hit them when they’re flying high and it takes some guts.”

“Less than 1 percent of the 10,000 case studies published by the Harvard Business School feature black business leaders…even though black-owned businesses represent 9% of all U.S. firms.” [WP, 4/16]

There is currently “$1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt.” “$137 billion in federal student loans are in default.” One example cited in a column by Michelle Singletary describes a doctor from Michigan who is carrying $493,000 in debt. [WP, 4/16/17]

Domino’s Pizza — through reinvesting in product quality and investments in digital ordering tech — saw its share of the American pizza market rise from 9 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2016. [Bloomberg]

2017 is the 28th birthday, of the internet! Tim Berners-Lee, who created the internet, is concerned about three internet threats: a lack of control over personal data, misinformation and a lack of transparency. [Quartz]

The nature of the internet is a wonder. Recently, I emailed a well-known TV journalist when she was in Japan. My email sent at 12:20 p.m. EST. I received her response at 12:25 p.m. [WW]

Nordstrom Department store is offering fake mud covered jeans for the low price of $425 a pair. [MSNBC, 4/26/17]

Percent of driving time spent on phone per day

The actual device use among 3.1 million drivers over 5.6 billion miles of driving and found that in 88% of trips, drivers made at least some use of their phones. On average, drivers spent 3.5 minutes per hour on their device

The number of traffic deaths has been increasing since 2015 after a 40-year decline, with more than 40,000 people dying on the roads last year for the first time in a decade. It is estimated that a 2-second distraction increases the risk of a collision by 20 times. [AXIOS – Mike Allen]

A high school classmate of mine by the name of Judy Lindley has for many years taken on the responsibility of keeping the whole class—Duluth East, Class of 1957—up to speed as to what various folks are doing or want to share with classmates.

Recently she circulated an item called, “Thanks for the memory” circa 1955:

* Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging 7 cents just to mail a letter?

* If they raise the minimum wage to $1.00, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.

* When I first started driving, who could have thought gas would someday cost 25 cents a gallon? Guess we’d be better off leaving the car in the garage.

* Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $50,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn’t surprise me if someday they’ll be making more than the President.

* I never thought I’d see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They’re even making electric typewriters now.

* It’s too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet.

* It won’t be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.

* I’m afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.

* Thank goodness I won’t live to see the day when the government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to government.

* The fast food restaurant is convenient for a quick meal, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.

* There is no sense going on short trips anymore for a weekend. It costs nearly $2.00 a night to stay in a hotel.

* No one can afford to be sick anymore. At $15.00 a day in the hospital, it’s too rich for my blood.

* If they think I’ll pay 30 cents for a haircut, forget it.