State of the Nation

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

22% of registered voters say the country is headed in the right direction. 68% of registered voters say the country is on the wrong track. (This is the same as last month.) [Econ/YouGov 8/29/23]

15% of the United States worked from home last year. Every state now has more remote workers than it did in 2019.

Boulder, Colorado had the highest share of remote workers in any metro area last year at 32%.

San Francisco and San Jose are both in the top 10.

Just over 25% of the workforce in D.C. is remote – the 6th highest rate of any city and higher than any state.

Mississippi has the lowest share of remote workers in the United States at just 5.5%.

Nationwide, the share of people working from home declined by less than 3 percentage points between 2021-2022. [Axios AM 9/16/23]

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” [Maya Angelou]

The House of Representatives voted to remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker, marking the first time in history that a House Speaker has been removed in this manner.

McCarthy served for 269 days. The final vote was 216-210 in favor of a motion to “vacate the chair.” McCarthy declined to enter the contest for a new Speaker. Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise are the two members of the House who have announced their candidacies. [NPR 10/3/23]


In 1936, 72% of Americans approved of labor unions. By 2009 labor unions were approved of by 48% of Americans. In 2016 approval was at 56%. By August 2018 62% approved of unions. In August 2022 approval of unions had risen to 71%.

In the 1940s, only about 9.8% of public employees were represented by unions while 33.9% of private, non-agricultural workers had such representation. In this decade, 36% of public workers are represented by unions while private sector union density had dropped to 7%.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent survey shows union membership in the US has risen to 12.4% from 12.1% in 2007. Private sector membership was 7.6% in 2008. In 2013 the percentage of workers belonging to a union was 11.3% compared to 20.1% in 1983.

In 2023, the BLS reported that Trade Union Membership hit an all-time low at 10.1%.

In 2021, 48,830 people died from gun-related injuries.

2021 is the most recent year for which complete data is available.

  • 43% of gun deaths were murders.
  • 54% of gun deaths were suicides.
  • 3% of gun deaths were from other causes.
  • 81% of murders involved firearms.
  • 55% of all suicides involved firearms.

There were 14.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2021.

There were 16.3 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 1974, the highest it has ever been.

The states with the highest total rates of gun-related deaths were Mississippi (33.9 per 100,000 people; Louisiana (29.1); New Mexico (27.8); Alabama (26.4) and Wyoming (26.1).

The states with the lowest total rates included Massachusetts (3.4); Hawaii (4.8); New Jersey (5.2); New York (5.4) and Rhode Island (5.6). [PEW Research Center]

In 2022, Americans’ median age hit 39 years old, up from 38.8 in 2021 and 37.4 in 2012.

The states with the highest growth rates (2021-2022) are Florida, Idaho, and South Carolina.

The states with the biggest population decreases were New York, Louisiana, and Illinois. [Axios AM 9/14/23]

The poverty rate rose to 12.4% in 2022 from 7.8% in 2021, the largest one-year jump on record. Poverty among children more than doubled to 12.4% from a record low of 5.2% the year before. [NYT 9/12/23]

Last year, 5% of all new cars sold in the 4th quarter were fully electric, a traditional tipping point when EV sales take off in some countries. There currently are limits on U.S. enthusiasm for the new vehicles, with nearly half of adults (46%) say they prefer to own a gas-powered car or truck. That compares to 19% who want a full-electric vehicle, 13% who want a plug-in hybrid and 22% who want a traditional hybrid vehicle. [WP 9/18/23]

The number of previously occupied homes sold in the United States dropped by 21 percent over the past year. That’s on top of an 18 percent annual decline the year before. Median sales price climbed by 3.9% from a year ago. [WP 9/21/23]

The Passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein

I first met Dianne Feinstein when she was the Mayor of San Francisco. Over the years we had a number of professional, social, and friendly connections. The following says what I would like to say better than I could. (WW)

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California:

“Paul, my daughter Nancy Corinne and I were heartbroken to learn of the passing of our dear friend Dianne Feinstein. For decades, Senator Feinstein was a pillar of public service in California: from San Francisco’s City Hall to the United States Capitol. Her indomitable, indefatigable leadership made a magnificent difference for our national security and personal safety, the health of our people and our planet, and the strength of our Democracy.

“Dianne was a pioneering woman leader, who served as San Francisco’s first female Mayor with unmatched courage, poise, and grace. Standing strong amid horror and heartbreak – from the brutal murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone to the deadly HIV/AIDs epidemic – she offered our city a beacon of strength and hope.

“In the United States Senate, she was a champion for the Golden State: bringing home billions of federal dollars while defending our state’s natural wonders. Blazing trails as the first woman to lead the powerful Intelligence Committee, she bolstered America’s moral standing and national security with her fierce opposition to the use of torture. On the Judiciary Committee, she authored and passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which helped stem the tide of mass shootings for the ten years it was law and continued urging its renewal as an essential template for ending gun violence. A fierce champion for gender justice, her tireless advocacy was consequential in securing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

“Personally, it was a great honor to serve alongside Dianne for decades – from the hilly streets of San Francisco to the hallowed halls of Congress. We were not only colleagues, but neighbors and friends. My daughter, Nancy Corinne, has long been an admirer and devoted friend of Senator Feinstein, and we were all close friends with her and her late husband, Richard.

“Dianne’s extraordinary career will continue to inspire countless young women and girls to pursue public service for generations to come. May it be a comfort to her daughter Katherine and her husband Rick, her granddaughter Eileen, and the entire Feinstein family that all Americans join them in mourning at this sad time.”

America’s Dismal Views of the Nation’s Politics

How Americans feel when they think about politics:

Always/Often Sometimes Rarely/Never
Exhausted 65 25 9
Angry 55 34 11
Hopeful 10 33 56
Excited 4 18 78

Majorities of Americans say partisan fighting gets too much attention, while issues and policy get too little.

Too Much Right Amount Too Little
Important issues facing the country 5 16 78
Policies local elected officials are working on 8 25 66
Policies elected officials in Washington are working on 13 20 64
2024 presidential election 39 37 22
Disagreements between Republicans and Democrats 57 20 22

Most Americans are critical of the role of money in politics; 72% favor limits on political spending.

Percent in Favor
The cost of political campaigns makes it hard for good people to run for office. 85%
Special interest groups and lobbyists have too much say in what happens in politics. 84%
There should be limits on the amount of money that can be spent on campaigns. 72%
It’s possible to have laws that would effectively reduce the role of money in politics. 58%

[PEW 9/19/23]


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August 2023 is 3.8%.

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 is 7.1% in August 2023, greater than the 7.0 % it was a year earlier.

The Labor Force Participation rate (LFPR) in August 2023 is 62.8% higher than the 62.3% in August 2022.

The Demographics of Unemployment for August 2023

Unemployment by Gender (20 years and older)

  • Women –2.9 % (up from last month)
  • Men –3.4% (up from last month)

Unemployment by Race

  • White – 3.4% (up from last month)
  • Black – 5.3 % (down from last month)
  • Hispanic –4.9 % (up from last month)
  • Asian –3.1% (up from last month)

Unemployment by Education (25 years & over)

  • Less than high school –5.4 % (up from last month)
  • High School –3.8 % (up from last month)
  • Some college –3.0 % (down from last month)
  • Bachelor’s Degree or higher –2.2 % (up from last month)

3 in 10 young adults in America hold two or more jobs, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. [NYT 10/1/23]