Capitol Comments

Elevated unemployment rates remain an indicator of significant economic distress for many states. In June 2013, the national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, unchanged from May but 0.6 percentage points lower than a year earlier. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases from June 2012 to June 2013 while seven states had increases and six states had no change.

As Washington continues negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, state leaders are bracing for the worst and hoping for the best. If the federal government doesn’t find a clear debt ceiling solution by the August 2 deadline, states could face higher borrowing costs, risks to their investments and an abrupt stop to federal funding for key programs.

Shortly after the Great Recession began, states started struggling to keep their unemployment insurance (UI) trust funds afloat. UI trust funds are used to pay out unemployment benefits to citizens. Primarily because of sustained high unemployment rates, long-term unemployment and unsustainable funding models, those UI trust funds have been exhausted, leaving states with a negative balance no choice but to borrow from the federal government.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has released a new database that allows users to interact with federal income tax expenditures, pulled from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).  

You might be surprised to learn that 99 percent of all soybeans produced in Nebraska are exported to Mexico. Or that more than 8 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada alone, equal to 4.4 percent of total U.S. employment - or 1 in 23 American jobs. And over the past decade, Vermont’s exports to China grew by over 4,300%.