In December 2013, the national unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest level in five years. After hitting a post-recessionary high of 10 percent in October 2009, the unemployment rate has fallen slowly and steadily, but remains nearly 2 percentage points higher than it was when the recession began in December 2007. In December 2013, North Dakota (2.6 percent), South Dakota (3.6 percent) and Nebraska (3.6 percent) had the lowest unemployment rates, while Rhode Island (9.1 percent), Nevada (8.8 percent), and Illinois (8.6 percent) had the highest rates.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. In 2012, an estimated 3.6 million people—or 4.7 percent of all hourly paid workers—made at or below the federal minimum wage. The young and the undereducated are more likely to earn the minimum wage, although those older than 25 make up a significant portion of the people earning at or below the minimum wage.

As of Jan. 1, 2014, the minimum wage increased over 2013 rates in 13 states—Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Increases ranged from 10 cents an hour in Arizona, Montana and Ohio, to $1 an hour in California and New Jersey. California’s minimum wage will increase from $8 an hour to $9 an hour later in July.

Children continue to be the poorest age group in America and poverty in childhood has a substantially negative impact on a number of educational outcomes. Poor educational outcomes can in turn limit future economic success and potential employability as an adult.

Although women make up a slight majority of registered voters (53 percent), only one in four state legislators are women. Vermont has the highest percentage of female legislators at 41.1 percent. Women serve as governors in five states—Jan Brewer in Arizona, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, Susan Martinez in New Mexico, Mary Fallin in Oklahoma and Nikki Haley in South Carolina. Nearly half (22) of chief justices in state courts of last resort and 29.1 percent of total state court judges are women.