State of the Nation

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

27% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction while 60% say it is on the wrong track. [Reuters/Ipsos, 9/5/17]


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August 2017 is 4.4% a slight bump up from the 4.3% in July.

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 August 2017 is 8.8%. [BLS data is based on those 16 years of age and older.]

Gallup no longer tracks employment/unemployment

51% of employees are very/somewhat satisfied with their jobs. But this is down from 61.1% in 1987 and 58.6% in 1995. 52% of workers feel safe from a layoff. 60% of workers feel they can afford a comfortable retirement, down from 73% in 1993. [Conference Board, 11/2016; Employee Benefits Research Institute]

This August, 59% saw it as a good time to find a quality job.
In 2009 and 2010, 10% thought it was “a good time to find a quality job.”

A Gallup poll in 2017, found that 9 out of 10 workers did not feel threatened by outsourcing. [New York Times, 9/4/17]

There are 7.5 million retail jobs in America. Retail jobs are both the most common jobs and the most likely to be impacted by computerization. 3.5 million retail workers are cashiers. Cashiers are at the highest risk of computerization. [FiveThirtyEight Newsletter, 8/18/17]

57% of Americans rate the economy where they live as excellent (10%) or good (47%). This compares with 43% who held this view in 2015 – excellent (8%) and good (35%). [NBC/WSJ, 8/9/17 and Allstate National Journal poll, 2/22/15]

61% are not confident that “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us”. [NBC/WSJ, 8/9/17]

In 2006, 60% of Americans “identified themselves as upper or middle class, while 38% identified as working or lower class.

In 2015, well after the 2008-09 financial crisis, those identifying as upper or middle class had dropped to 51% and the working and lower class group number was 48%.

In June of this year Gallup found 62% placing themselves in the upper or middle class while 36% saw themselves as working or lower class.

Median income in the United States hit $59,039 in 2016, the highest ever reported by the Census Bureau. 12.7% (40.6 million people) still live in poverty but this is 2.5 million fewer people than in 2015. The poverty rate hit 15.1% in 2010. Only 8.8% of Americans do not have health insurance.

“Politicians have no idea what it’s like to live day to day in our shoes.” 50% of voters consider themselves living paycheck to paycheck. There is research that shows that it’s actually closer to 78% of workers who are living paycheck to paycheck. [Winston Group, 8/25/17]

The Asian population is growing faster than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S., climbing 72% between 2000 and 2015 according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. Asian Americans are projected to eclipse Hispanic Americans in 2055 to become the largest immigrant group in the country. [Pew Research Center]

About this Country

In August 2017, the NBC/WSJ survey focused on social trends. The following are some of the findings.

When asked how divided the country is, 80% of Americans say it is mainly (59%) or totally (21%) divided.

Respondents were asked how well the economy works for different types of people. A similar question was asked about some of the same groups in January 2014. The following chart shows a few of the groups for which data was available in both years.

  Very/Fairly well Not that well/Not well at all
2017 65% 6%
2014 53 11
2017 43% 19%
2014 33 25
The Wealthy    
2017 91% 2%
2014 81 6
The Middle Class    
2017 31% 28%
2014 22 40
Those living in poverty    
2017 11% 73%
2014 13 72
You and your family    
2017 53% 14%
2014 37% 24%

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion about changes in American society and the increasing diversity of life styles, gender roles, languages and cultures. 55% of respondents are comfortable with these changes while 24% are uneasy about them.

60% believe that immigration strengthens the United States while 28% believe it weakens the country.

Currently, there is a proposal to change the immigration system to a merit-based system that favors applications based on skill, education and ability to speak English. The result would be that many immigrants who have family members in the U.S. would not be allowed to live here permanently and that legal immigration would be cut by about 50%. Do you consider this to be a good idea or a bad idea?

Bad idea 45%
Good idea 27%

60% favor allowing same-sex marriages. Five years ago that number was 51%.

28% of us say that America is the single best place to live, another 17% say it is among the very few best places and 37% say it is above average.

Respondents were asked, “Exclusive of your family, friends or fellow employees, is there one person you especially respect and trust?” (Respondents were not given a list.)

Heading the response list was Barack Obama who was named by 5% of the respondents, 3% named Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren, Mike Pence, Jerry Brown and Jesus/God were named by 2%. All others on the list received 1% of the responses.

Only one of the 16 people who received at least 1% of the responses is a woman. Donald Trump was in the 1% group.

This and That

In 2015, drug overdoses resulted in 52,404 deaths. In 2016 that number rose to 64,000. [New York Times, 9/3/17]

Between 2014 and 2017, the average price of legalized marijuana fell from $9.38 to $6.85 a gram in Colorado and from $20.13 to $5.81 a gram in the state of Washington. [AXIOS, 9/4/17]

Uber passengers have paid their drivers $50 million in tips since the company made in-app tipping available in late June. [FiveThirtyEight Newsletter, 8/24/17]

For the first time in 2016, a majority of Americans favored cremation over the alternatives. The National Funeral Directions Association is forecasting that in 2025, nearly 64% of people who die in the United States will be cremated. [FiveThirtyEight Newsletter, 8/14/17]

In 2013, 42% of Americans thought it was the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that all Americans have health coverage. 56% disagreed. By 2017, those who thought it was the responsibility of the federal government had grown to 60%. [Gallup and Pew Research]

In South Korea there is 1 robot per 19 employed humans. The country is now considering changing its tax laws to make the country less friendly to automation. [Engineering & Technology]

There are 116, 800 people currently on organ transplant waiting lists. [New York Times]