State of the Nation

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

53% of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, that includes 51% of men and 54% of women.

36% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction. This includes 41% of men and 31% of women. [Econ/YouGov 2/18/20]


[WW note – For the first time, in January 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics included same-sex couples in its count of married workers in the U.S. economy. Also, the 2020 census will change its questionnaire to include “same-sex husband/wife/spouse” and “same-sex unmarried partner.” See BLS Economic News Release 2/7/20 – Tables A-9 & A-10.]

The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2020 is 3.6%, a touch higher than it has been since October 2019. The unemployment rate is lower than the 4.0% unemployment rate of a year ago.

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 in January is 6.9%, up from 6.7% in December 2019 but down from 8.0% a year ago.

225,000 jobs were created in January. A year ago, 304,000 jobs were created in January.

The Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for January is 63.4%, up from 63.2% in December 2019. [BLS 2/7/2020]

The Demographics of Unemployment for January 2020

Unemployment by Gender (20 years and older)
Women – 3.2% (same as last month)
Men – 3.3% (up from last month)

Unemployment by Race
White – 3.1% (down from last month)
Black – 6.0% (up from last month)
Hispanic – 4.3% (up from last month)
Asian – 3.0% (up from last month)

Unemployment by Education (25 years & over)
Less than high school – 5.5% (up from last month)
High School – 3.8% (up from as last month)
Some college – 2.8% (same as last month)
Bachelor’s Degree or higher – 2.0% (up from last month)

In December 2019, three states had the same unemployment rate as the national average for that month, 3.5%; 25 states had unemployment rates below the national average; 24 states, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, had unemployment rates that were above the national average.

Alaska, at 6.1%, had the highest unemployment rate in the country. (Puerto Rico at 8.4% was higher.) Mississippi, Virginia and D.C. had unemployment rates of 5% or greater but less than 6%. 8 states had unemployment rates that were 4.0% or greater but less than 5.0%. [Bureau of Labor Statistics]

By 2040, two-thirds of Americans will be represented by 30% of the Senate. The 15 most populous states will be home to 67% of the U.S. population. Nine states will be home to half of the country’s population. [WP 11/28/17]

As of now, student debt totals about $1.5 trillion, up from $250 billion in 2004. Student loans are now the second largest slice of household debt after mortgages and bigger than credit card debt. About 42 million Americans (about one in every eight) have student loans.

Is it worth it?

The typical worker with a bachelor’s degree earns nearly $1 million more than an otherwise similar worker with just a high school diploma, if both work fulltime, year-round, from age 25.

About 30% of undergrads graduate with no debt and 25% with less than $20,000. Only 6% of borrowers owe more than $100,000. [Nation 1/28/2020]

In 2019, the average U.S. household has 2.52 people. This is the lowest household size in the history of the country.

In the 1880s the average was 5.5 people per household and in the 1950s the average size of a household was 3.37 people. [Justin Fox, Bloomberg]

47% of Americans say that we need to keep shaking things up and make major changes in the way government operates while 45% of us say we need more competence and a steady approach in the way government operates. [NBC/WSJ survey 1/29/2020.

Over the past 50 years, the highest earning 20% of U.S. households have steadily brought in a larger share of the country’s total income.

In 2018 the top 20% of households (incomes of $130,000 or more) brought in 52% of all U.S. income. In 1968 the top 20% brought in 43% of all U.S. income.

The United States has the highest level of income inequality among G7 countries. [Facttank 2/7/20]

One in three Americans run out of money between paychecks. This includes people making six figure incomes. For many folks, it is the rising cost of living – including food, housing, education and medical expenses that create the squeeze. During 2019 the cost of medical care rose 4.6%, housing 3.2%, education 2.1% and food 1.8%. [PRRI 2/14/20]

There are wide racial, age and partisan differences on the role of government.

  Government is doing too many things better left to
business and individuals
Government should do more to solve problems
Total 43% 55%
Men 48% 52%
Women 40% 59%
White 51% 48%
Black 25% 74%
Hispanic 29% 70%
Age 18-29 34% 65%
Age 65+ 54% 44%
GOP/Lean 71% 28%
DEM/Lean 21% 78%

[PEW 3/15/19]

Is legalization of same-sex marriage a good thing for society?

  Good thing Bad thing
Total 61% 37%
Men 59% 40%
Women 63% 35%
Age 18-29 75% 24%
Age 50-64 52% 46%
Age 65+ 50% 48%
White 61% 38%
Black 50% 46%
Hispanic 65% 32%
Postgrad 70% 48%
HS or less 52% 45%
GOP/Lean 41% 57%
DEM/Lean 79% 30%

[PEW 3/15/19]

The U.S. deficit will top $1 trillion in 2020. Medicare spending will double from $835 million in 2020 to $1.7 trillion in 2020. Total spending on federal health programs will come close to doubling from $1.3 trillion in 2020 to $2.5 trillion in 2030. [AXIOS 1/29/20]