In January 2008, employment in the U.S. hit a historic high of 138.4 million. Just over two years later, that figure had fallen considerably, reaching a 10-year employment low of 129.7 million in February 2010. Since hitting that low more than four years ago, the U.S. has added almost 8.3 million jobs but total employment is still 437,000 below the historic high reached in 2008. Only 15 states have gotten back to their pre-recession employment peak.

By Nicholas Johnson Vice President, State Fiscal Policy Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

When it comes to raising the minimum wage, the objection opponents most often make is that it will cost jobs. But the experience of numerous states proves otherwise.

The U.S. Department of Labor is using $100 million dollars of current funds to increase the use of apprenticeships in the workforce.  As part of President Obama's charge to Vice President Biden to build a stronger middle class, these competitive grants will allow state partnerships to develop and increase the use of internships that lead to employment.

On April 16, 2014, President Obama asked Vice President Biden to take the lead on investments necessary to assist individuals get trained with the skills needed to land a job. Following training the initiative strives to help hard-working Americans get placed in a good, middle class job.  The first effort offers competitive grants to partnerships of community colleges, employers and industry so they can create job-driven training programs.

During the Great Recession, states faced enormous challenges related to funding a number of vital programs. One of those programs was adequately financing their unemployment insurance trust funds, a program that originated in the 1930s. As a result of the doggedly high unemployment rates in so many states during the Great Recession and previous actions taken by states (such as expanding unemployment benefits and cutting unemployment insurance taxes), the unemployment insurance funds in a majority of the states were thrust into perilous shape. By 2013, the funding position of these funds improved as a result of an advancing economy and a series of actions initiated by states.

A 2011 study by Deloitte for the Manufacturing Institute found that American manufacturing companies could not fill as many as 600,000 positions—or 5 percent of manufacturing jobs—due to a lack of qualified candidates, and 56 percent of manufacturers anticipate that shortage will increase in the next three to five years. Technological advancements, particularly in the manufacturing area, mean that workers need more specialized skills to both get and keep jobs. To get to those skilled workers, companies must make a decision: Look for new, qualified employees or retrain their current workforce.

The issues state leaders from across the political spectrum can agree on are rare, but the promotion and cultivation of homegrown entrepreneurs might just be one of them. State leaders know entrepreneurs not only create jobs, but also contribute to an increase in wages and standards of living.

According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, which tracks new business creation across the U.S., Montana had the highest entrepreneurship rate in 2013 with 610 per 100,000 adults creating businesses each month during the year. Montana is followed by Alaska (470 per 100,000 adults), South Dakota (410 per 100,000 adults), California (400 per 100,000 adults) and Colorado (380 per 100,...

Like many programs, state tourism efforts took a significant hit during the Great Recession. Experts argue, however, that cutting tourism marketing programs can have long-term negative consequences for state economies.

With the end of tax season, CNBC has compiled some interesting graphics related to federal and state taxes. Using data from the Tax Foundation, the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department, the article details where federal and state revenues come from and how they are spent. The top three spending items for the federal government were Health and Human Services, Social Security and Defense. An interactive map of the United States allows users to see several state-level measures, including total taxes paid, average deductions and state tax rates. 

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