Econ Piggy

The unemployment rate fell in 31 states in September, whilst 15 states unemployment rate stood below 5 percent, signaling a return to healthier labor-market conditions reports US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forty-two states had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, five states had increases, and three states had no change. The US unemployment rate declined to 5.9 percent in September and was 1.3 percent lower than in September 2013.

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded almost $170 million in grants to help put long-term unemployed Americans back to work as part of the Ready to Work Partnership initiative. The grants, which range in value from $3 million to $10 million, will go to 23 partnerships and serve individuals across 20 states and in Puerto Rico. A few of the grantees – like the Memphis Bioworks Foundation – will support projects in multiple states.

On Monday, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against a local businessman - Jackson T. Stephens Jr., who is also board chairman of the Club for Growth - thus allowing a question about the state's minimum wage to remain on the ballot. Mr. Stephens argued that supporters of the initiative did not hit a key deadline for submitting their petition and that some of the signatures on that petition were forged. 

On Election Day 2014, voters in four states - Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota - will decide if minimum wage workers in their state should get a raise. If voters in all four states approve a wage increase, at least 57,000 minimum wage earners would be affected and would join workers in 16 other states who are scheduled to see a wage increase on Jan. 1, 2015.

The Department of Labor has awarded $14,837,785 in grants to six states - California, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota and South Dakota - to improve employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities as part of the Disability Employment Initiative. The initiative awards grants to help increase the participation of adults and youth with disabilities in existing career pathway systems and other programs that bring together educational insitutions, the private sector and disability advocates. 

Hunger affects millions of children every year in the U.S. and is linked to greater rates of absenteeism and school disciplinary problems. Those behaviors are, in turn, associated with lower academic achievement and greatly increase the chance a child will drop out of school – which comes with a huge price tag for tax payers. 

The Department of Labor announced yesterday in a press release that 11 organizations across nine states have been awarded $50,744,449 in grants to improve federal job training programs through the Workforce Innovation Fund. The grants - ranging from $2.9 to $12 million - were awarded to state workforce agencies and local workforce investment boards for the second round of competition under the Fund. During the first round, approximately $171 million in grants were awarded including $147 million for 26 grants in 2012 and $24 million for two Pay for Success grants in 2013. 

The U.S. Dept. of Labor announced Monday that Texas has been awarded $2.8 million to enhance and expand its short-time compensation program (STC), which is designed to help prevent layoffs through “work-sharing”. STC programs are administered through the federal-state unemployment compensation system and allow employers to reduce employee work hours during tough economic times as an alternative to laying them off. Through the STC program, employees who have had their hours reduced receive some percentage of the weekly unemployment benefits that they would have received if they had been completely laid off.  

This session explored what’s in store for your state in 2015 and beyond as experts forecast fiscal and economic trends for states and the nation. The discussion focused on the most significant fiscal and economic issues facing states—such as public pensions, tax reform and ways to foster entrepreneurship—and included insights about how states are tackling similar concerns. 

According to The Institute for Health and Social Policy, 145 of 173 countries mandate paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses. Employers in the U.S. are not required by the federal government to provide paid sick leave to employees, but two states – Connecticut and California – have passed laws that require employers to do so. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 65 percent of civilian employees – private sector and state and local governments – had access to paid sick leave in March 2014.

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