Economics and Finance

The Council of State Governments (CSG) and Elsevier are proud to partner on this report to analyze the research strengths of the United States. Using a variety of data sources, including Scopus—Elsevier’s proprietary abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed research literature—this report assesses where states have a comparative advantage in research and how they can capitalize on those advantages to drive innovation, attract jobs, and foster economic growth.

CSG Midwest
The United States and Canada signed a preclearance agreement in March that will allow people traveling from one country to the other to be prescreened before they cross the border. When fully implemented, thisAgreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport will allow U.S. agents to be stationed in Canada (and Canadian agents in the United States) and to carry out immigration, customs and agriculture inspections of people entering the U.S. from Canada by any mode of transportation.
A preclearance program for airline passengers is already in place at eight of the largest Canadian airports; it will be expanded under the new accord.
CSG Midwest
Ask employers what their biggest challenges are, and one of the first responses will often be the difficulty in filling jobs with qualified workers. Ask policymakers what the biggest challenges facing their state’s economy are, and it won’t be long before they mention the need to build a trained workforce — one that can fill good-paying jobs and enable individual economic mobility.
This policy challenge is particularly acute in regard to middle-skill jobs — those requiring more than a high school diploma, such as an associate’s degree, certificate or other postsecondary credential, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Last year, in fact, none of the 10 fastest-growing occupations required bachelor’s degrees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers could instead qualify for these jobs through such means as skills certificates, on-the-job training or apprenticeships.
In an effort to match state policy with these labor-market realities, new legislation is being introduced and innovative programs are being implemented across the Midwest that target middle-skill jobs and workers.
CSG Midwest
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Employee Benefits Survey,” 76 percent of the nation’s part-time private-sector workers and 26 percent of full-time employees had no access to paid sick days in 2014. In the Midwest, 43 percent of all full- and part-time workers do not have paid sick leave — the highest percentage of any U.S. region.
In 2012, Connecticut became the first state to mandate paid sick leave. Under its law, which applies only to non-exempt workers in certain service occupations, employers with 50 or more employees must provide a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave per 40 hours worked (after an initial 680 hours of employment), with a maximum accrual of 40 hours per year. California and Massachusetts are the other two states with laws requiring paid sick leave. Their laws take effect July 1 and require an initial 90-day employment period before accrued sick leave can be used.
CSG Midwest
In 2014, year-over-year unemployment rates fell in all 50 states. That hadn’t happened since 1984, and the news was greeted as another positive sign of economic recovery. But there is another trend getting more attention from economists and state policymakers: the continuing decline in rates of labor participation.

At its peak in August 2008, state government employment stood at 5.21 million, or about 3.8 percent of total nonfarm employment. Over the next five years, state governments shed 187,000 jobs, landing at 5.03 million in July 2013. As of December 2014, state governments had regained 53,000 positions since hitting the July 2013 low, but have only recovered a little more than one quarter of the positions lost since the August 2008 peak.

Steve Brophy, vice president of government affairs for Dollar General, developed a program in California to address unemployment among veterans and brought it to Tennessee when he made the move from the west coast.  While attempting to fill vacant positions, he discovered Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a national program supporting states' investment in employment opportunities for active duty military and veterans.  The Paychecks for Patriots program grew and launched in 2012 to offer an opportunity for veterans to attend local job fairs across Tennessee with a chance for on-the-spot hiring.

In the March/April issue of Capitol Ideas, I wrote about how the state of Utah has used transportation investment to drive the state’s economic growth. Among those I talked with were two legislators—one a civil engineer, the other an economist—as well as a planning official for the Utah Department of Transportation. But there is plenty more to the story of Utah’s success as I learned in this February interview with Abby Albrecht of the Utah Transportation Coalition, which arrived too late to be included in the published article. The coalition is an organization formed by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Utah Association of Counties.

Econ Piggy

In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress officially designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” In honor of this month, here are a few stats about women in the United States.

By Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, CSG Senior Fellows

At least a dozen states—including Arizona, Florida, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin—have plans to cut taxes in the coming year. But statistics suggest that lowering the tax burden doesn’t always translate into economic activity.

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