State of the Nation

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

39% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction, 54% say it is on the wrong track. [Economist/YouGov; 9/4/18]

In August, 36% of us were satisfied with the way things were going in the
United States. This is up from 35% in July, down from 38% in June. Satisfaction among Republicans has risen steadily to 67% while satisfaction among Democrats has fallen to 12%.

In 2010, Democrats/leaners were equally positive about capitalism and socialism with 53% having a positive view of each. Attitudes toward the two economic forms ran roughly equal through 2016. In 2018, a shift occurred with only 47% having a positive view of capitalism and 57% having a positive view of socialism.

Republicans/leaners feel the same way today as they did in 2010 with 72% having a positive view of capitalism and only 16% having a positive view of socialism. [Gallup]


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August 2018 is 3.9%, unchanged from last month.

If one considers 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 2018 is 7.4%, also unchanged from last month.

The unemployment rate in Canada in August was 6% and in Mexico in July the unemployment rate was 3.5%. [Trading]

The Demographics of Unemployment

We have seen improvement since July in many of the categories below with the exception of the unemployment rate for Hispanics, those with less than a high school education and those with some college.

Unemployment by Gender (20 years and older)
Women – 3.2%
Men – 3.1%

Unemployment by Race (all races)
White – 3.4%
Black – 6.3%
Hispanic – 4.7% (increase)
Asian – 3.0%

Unemployment by Education (25 years & over)
Less than high school – 5.7% (increase)
High School – 3.9%
Some college – 3.5% (increase)
Bachelor’s Degree or higher – 2.1%

In July, 28 states had unemployment rates that were below the national number of 3.9% in July. 22 states and D.C. had unemployment rates that exceeded the national average for that month.

One state, Alaska at 6.9%, had the highest unemployment rate in the country. West Virginia and D.C. had unemployment rates of 5.0% or more but less than 6.0%. 20 states had unemployment rates that were 4.0% or greater but less than 5.0%.
[Bureau of Labor Statistics]

In the last six-plus months, Americans’ trust of the Facebooks, Twitters and Googles of the world to prevent foreign interference in the 2018 mid-term elections has declined. U.S. adults’ trust in the tech companies on this issue has dropped from 48% to 41%.

The most dramatic drop in confidence is among Democrats whose faith in these companies has fallen from 54% to 42%. Among Republicans the fall off was less steep, from 46% to 40%.

Interestingly, the only group whose confidence has not dropped over this period are the Independents who were the least confident in the first place. Initially confidence among this group was at 40% and there has been a slight tick upward to 43%.

In addition, two-thirds of Republicans believe that search engine results are skewed to the left which drives their general distrust of these devices. It’s no surprise that, only 13% of Democrats share this position. Nearly a third of Independents are also distrustful. [Axios/SurveyMonkey; 8/30-9/3 – online poll]

This and That

Not with standing all of the information that most of us get via the internet or some form of electronic delivery service, the United States Postal Service continues to deliver a huge amount of plain old snail mail. I decided to investigate how much of the mail we receive during an average week is unsolicited or some form of advertising.

During the six-day week of Monday, August 27, 2018 thru Saturday September 1, 2018, we collected all of the mail we received at home. We then removed the personal letters and cards, bills, receipts, various official notices and magazines for which we had purchased subscriptions.

The remaining mail weighed in at 10.5 pounds. [WW]

The Trump Administration has significantly reduced the number of people attempting to legally move to the United States. The number of people receiving visas to move to the U.S. permanently will drop 12 percent through Trump’s first two years in office. Setting aside dramatic drops from countries targeted by the administration’s ban on travel from a set of Muslim-majority countries, the number of visas approved for Africans is on pace to fall 15 percent and applications for the H-1B visa fell for the first time in five years. [WP]

The latest numbers from Nielsen show that on average American adults spend 11.1 hours every day consuming media, up 19 minutes over the previous quarter. The breakdown is interesting, and more low-tech than you might expect: 92 percent of adults listen to radio in an average week, 88 percent watch television, 79 percent mess around on a smartphone, 60 percent on a computer and 15 percent on a game console. [Numlock, 8/2/18]

America has too many places to buy a bed. From 2009 to 2017, the number of U.S. stores that sold mattresses rose to 15,255, a 32% increase. There are literally only 14,079 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. This cutthroat competition — plus e-commerce competition that compelled brick and mortar researchers to, well, “go to the mattresses” — has forced the top mattress retailer in America, Mattress Firm, to close hundreds of stores in a tactical retreat. [Numlock, 8/26]

Harley Davidson has a problem — well, several problems — but the main one is that the motorcycle brand is struggling to reach a new generation of consumers. An industry analysis found that only a quarter of motorcycle riders are between the ages of 25 and 40, and only 14 percent are women. This is one reason the company is looking abroad for sales. In 2006, 273,210 Harleys were sold domestically, and 75,980 internationally. In 2017, 144,890 were sold domestically and 96,610 internationally which is a combined total of less than were sold domestically a decade ago. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 84.5 percent of Democrats and 51.9 percent of Republicans would support a policy of “Medicare for All” in the U.S. healthcare system. The precise implementation of that policy credo is a bit fluid, but the gist is about 70 percent of Americans look favorably on offering some sort of baseline medical care in the U.S. [Reuters]

India’s Supreme Court has struck down a 150-year-old British colonial law outlawing consensual gay sex. The law had existed unchanged since the 1860s and in 2016 there were more than 2,100 cases registered under the law. Of the 48 former British colonies that criminalize homosexuality, 30 do so under laws based on Colonial-era anti-LGBT legislation.

This year there have been 4,480 retail store closures across the United States, a catastrophe that is still somehow not as bad as the 5,700 store closures that had occurred at this point last year. Still, that’s enough devastation for scavenging beasts — such as the Spirit Halloween stores roaming the American strip mall — to feed on to survive the winter. Plus, hiring is up in retail with about 50,000 jobs added monthly.

In last week’s hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, on one question Kavanaugh came up short in my opinion.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), was pushing the Judge about his view on Roe v Wade, without making much progress until she asked, “Can you think of any laws that give the government power to make decisions about the male body?”

Kavanaugh finally responded awkwardly, “I’m not thinking of any right now Senator.”

80% of Americans have confidence in the U.S. Military to act in the best interest of the public. 45% have that same confidence in business leaders and 40% have confidence in the news media.

Only 25% of Americans have confidence in elected officials to act in the public’s best interest. 36% of Republicans/Lean Republican have confidence in elected officials to act in their best interest but only 17% of Democrats/Lean Democrats share that view. [PEW, 2/15/18]

78% of Americans say “that when it comes to important issues facing the country, most Republican and Democratic voters disagree not only on plans and policies but also on basic facts”. This includes 81% of Rep/leaners and 76% of Dem/Lean. [PEW, 8/23]

40% of Americans “struggled last year to meet a basic need” such as food,
health care, housing or utilities.

23% of households struggled to feed their family at some point during the year.

18% didn’t seek care for a medical need because of the cost.

13% missed a utility payment.

10% didn’t pay the full amount of their rent or mortgage, or paid it late. [Urban Institute “Well-Being and Basic Needs” survey]