Capitol Comments

The Obama Administration announced yesterday awards totaling $38.8 million for 29 economic and workforce development projects across seven states – Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia – to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry.

Last week, the Department of Justice announced it would be seeking to reduce and eventually end the practice of using privately operated prisons.  In a memo to the Bureau of Federal Prisons, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates explains that about a decade ago, the Bureau began contracting with privately operated correctional institutions to handle a fast increasing federal prison population. Now, however, the prison population has started to decline.

Over the past 20 years, violent crime* has decreased considerably – down 35 percent from 1995. The violent crime rate (number of violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants) fell precipitously over this period, from 684.5 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants to 365.5 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2014, there were about 1.2 million violent crimes nationwide; in 1995 there were 1.8 million, despite the fact that the U.S. population grew by approximately 21 percent over this period.  

In May 2016, most states – 44 – saw nonfarm payroll employment grow over the previous year. Employment in five states (Florida, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington) grew by more than 3 percent. In six states (Alaska, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming) year-over-year employment declined. Employment declined the most in North Dakota and Wyoming, each falling by more than 3 percent. Across all states and the District of Columbia, employment grew by 2.4 million (1.7 percent) from May 2015 to May 2016.

Researchers and politicians often say that small businesses are the economic engine of the U.S. economy – that these businesses are the job creators. While small businesses (generally defined as companies with fewer than 500 employees) are certainly integral to economic prosperity – they make up about half of all private sector employment – it is the age of the business, not the size, which often drives job creation.

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