States with highest American Well-being, economy,jobs, a review 2014

US Job Growth

In 2007, leading up to the Great Recession, 79.9 percent of people ages 25 to 54 in the United States had a job. In the 12 months ending June 2014, five years after the recession ended, only 76.2 percent of people in that age group were working.

The latest rates show a slight improvement from fiscal 2013, when 75.9 percent of people in their prime working years had a job nationally. At that time, employment rates were below prerecession levels in 35 states.

Still, at 3.7 percentage points lower than before the recession, the employment to population ratiofor prime-age workers shows that the U.S. labor market remains weak. This finding has significant budgetary consequences for states:

  • Without paychecks, people pay less income tax and tend to buy less, reducing sales and business income tax revenue.
  • Unemployed people frequently need more services, such as Medicaid and other safety-net programs, increasing costs at a time when state governments may have less tax revenue.

A state-by-state comparison of calendar year 2007 with fiscal 2014 shows:

  • No state reported employment rate gains for 25- to 54-year-olds.
  • 29 states had statistically significant decreases.
  • The largest decline in the employment rate was in New Mexico, where 69.9 percent of prime-age workers had jobs in fiscal 2014 — 9.2 percentage points lower than in 2007.
  • Among the least affected were Vermont and Nebraska, which recorded the smallest observed changes in their current employment rates of 83.3 and 85.2 percent, respectively.

Although unemployment figures receive more media attention, the employment rate is a preferred index for many economists because it provides a sharper picture of changes in the labor market. The unemployment rate, for example, fails to count workers who stopped looking for a job. By focusing on 25- to 54-year-olds, trends are less distorted by demographic effects such as older and younger workers’ choices regarding retirement or full-time education.

A statistically significant decrease indicates a high level of confidence that there was a true change in the employment rate. Changes that are not statistically significant offer less certainty and could be the result of variations in sampling and other methods used to produce employment estimates. Without additional testing for statistical significance, caution should be exercised when comparing change in one state’s employment rate to change in another state’s rate.

Analysis by Jeff Chapman and Julie Srey


employment rate

Change in Spending

fed aidTax Revenue Volatility

tax revenue volatility

 reserve funds retirement costs tax revenue change in employment rate

American Well-BeingUSA state of american well being

New state rankings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® show that, over the seven years that we have been measuring and analyzing well-being, a number of U.S. states have made repeat appearances in the top ten list. Hawaii, which is ranked second this year, and Colorado, which is ranked sixth this year, have made consistent appearances in the top ten list all seven years. Marking its fourth appearance since 2008 on the top ten list, Alaska secured the number one spot for the very first time.

Familiar states also appear among the lowest well-being states. For the sixth consecutive year, West Virginia and Kentucky have the lowest well-being in the United States, ranking 50th and 49th, respectively. Other states that have appeared in the bottom ten all seven years are Arkansas, Ohio and Mississippi.

2014_State_Rankings_CoverOur latest report, “The State of American Well-Being: 2014 State Well-Being Rankings” examines the comparative well-being of the 50 states. You can read more about the rankings here and download a copy here.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. It is the most proven, mature and comprehensive measure of well-being in populations. Previous Gallup and Healthways research shows that high well-being closely relates to key health outcomes such as lower rates of healthcare utilization, workplace absenteeism and workplace performancechange in obesity status and new onset disease burden.

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Habits of Retirees by Tim Sprinkle

They keep us focused, keep us on task and help us organize the day-to-day tedium of our working lives.

Hawaii-based retiree Rik Rodriguez surfs regularly to keep his mind and body sharp.But habits remain important even when the working stops. In fact, after waiting decades to give up on their full-time careers, many retirees wake up to the realization that they actually need their daily routines more than ever to help them structure and make sense of their suddenly wide-open schedules.

How do they do it? What habits are particularly helpful for today’s retirees? We reached out to our Yahoo! Contributor Network community to find out what habits our retired members rely on and how they help them make the most of their golden years. Several of their responses are shown below.

I Challenge Myself Every Day

“I face it daily. At age 88, being retired for so many years is often challenging. My method of coping is to keep busy, both mentally and physically. Every morning I swim or hike for an hour. Then I attack blogging, my most energizing new routine. Actually, I’ve been a writer all my life, and made quite a good living at it in advertising and public relations. However, most was done on typewriters, and later on desktop computers before the Internet explosion.

“To create an active retirement, I attack the need for mental fitness as I fulfill physical conditioning. It requires work, stretching my mind as I do my body. At my advanced age, it’s often very challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun.” — Ted Sherman, 88

Working Part-Time Is My Key to a Happy Retirement

“Working is a life-long habit — a habit I decided to keep when I retired last year at age 62. Now, however, I work only part-time. I’ve been a substitute teacher since day one of my retirement. Substitute teaching is inherently a part-time job. Workers drawing Social Security in 2013 may earn up to $15,120 annually without reducing their monthly benefits. Subbing ensures that my earnings won’t exceed the annual limit. And, because I’m working, my Social Security benefits keep on increasing. I also maintain ‘active’ employee status in the public school retirement system, and continue to accrue contributions to my pension.

“Substituting connects me to creative, bright students. They ‘keep me on my toes,’ and I share my years of experience with them. There’s a mutual exchange of teaching and learning. Working part-time in retirement brings balance. I have the best of both worlds.” – Susan Durham, 63

A Good Retirement Begins With Friendships

“When I stopped teaching, along with that went the interactions between my students and me and my colleagues and me. I had friends, but not as many as I wanted; an extremely demanding work schedule had meant little time for friends, let alone a family.

“As a single woman, I knew I had to reach out to others. I made sure I had a plan in place to get out with people, make new friends, and to reach back to others in my past to get out and have some fun. I began filling up Fridays with dates for shopping, lunches, an occasional movie, and more. I am a natural hermit, but I knew being solitary was not good for my mental or physical well-being.” – Sandra Snow, 61

Retirement Is All About Attitude

“Although many factors contribute to my successful retirement, being a consistent and dedicated surfer helped me attain many of my retirement goals. Surfing requires focus, dedication and timing to name a few things. Most of us will excel in any endeavor utilizing these three elements. I have found a productive activity that I love and I turned it into a habit. The success of my retirement depended on it.

“Surfing has been my motivation most of my life now, and is something I do several times a week near my home on the Big Island of Hawaii. Staying in good shape is very important to me. Surfing is fun and challenging with many hidden benefits. It most certainly has enhanced my life in more ways that I can tell.” — Rik Rodriguez, 56

Scheduling Time Makes for More Satisfying Retirement Days

“If you have a regular date with a garden club, book club, or just a coffee klatch, those ‘appointments’ give you a daily dose of meaningful moments that are priceless. I make a point every week to send birthday cards, letters, or messages to friends far away in distance, but never in heart. I don’t depend on time for these things to just appear — I plan for it! These remembrances really make a difference to you and the ones you remember!” – Tresa Patterson, 54

Volunteering Makes for a Successful Retirement

“Volunteering gives me the opportunity to meet new interesting and talented people. For example, I currently volunteer as an usher at the Chapman Cultural Center’s David Read Theatre in Spartanburg, SC. The theatre hosts plays, musical entertainers, movies, lectures, etc. The perks of volunteering are that I get to attend the events I usher for free. I have made many new friends, and I am able to learn while I have fun!

“Volunteering at my church also contributes to my happy retirement. I attend Restoration Church in Spartanburg, SC and volunteer as a greeter, serve on the decorating team, and at special events.” – Freida Thomas, 51


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A message on Love by Curtis J. Milhaupt

The calendar entry for Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, reads simply, “Love One Another.” My wife, Terry, handed me the entry, a leaf torn from a pad, that morning. A drawing beneath the caption depicts a late middle-aged couple embracing as they walk down the beach, eyes sparkling, mouths agape, sharing a hearty laugh. The sun is setting behind them, throwing glitter across the water. Since Terry gave it to me nearly two years ago, that calendar page has remained on my desk in our bedroom, placed so that I see it every time I pass by.

I’m not exactly sure why I saved that particular entry, of the many given to me over the years by Terry, a lover of pithy sayings. Perhaps it was the powerful simplicity of the message. Or perhaps it was the promise it represented: golden years shared with a loving companion. This idea was becoming more poignant as middle age set in and Conrad, our only child, entered high school. Seeing the drawing sometimes made the bittersweet foretaste of empty-nesthood more palatable.

Or perhaps I saved it because coincidentally, on that particular day, we were headed to Hawaii, Terry’s home state, still filled with family and childhood friends. Walking along the beach was one of our favorite things to do, both as a couple and as a family. Waking early in the fog of jet lag, Terry, Conrad and I would buy takeout breakfast at Zippy’s and crouch at the water’s edge to eat as the sun rose over Kailua Bay near Terry’s childhood home. Walking along the beach, feeling the cool, wet sand under our feet as the sun warmed our faces, we were happy and grateful and content.

These days, a small, silver religious medal lies atop that calendar entry on my desk. Terry was wearing it last fall on the day she took her own life, the victim of a devastating depression that gripped her out of nowhere and pulled her into a darkness from which she felt there was no escape.

Her illness was a menopausal version of a terrifying episode of postpartum depression she suffered after Conrad was born. Terry once said the only thing that saved her during that first episode was the maternal instinct — knowing that her baby needed her in order to survive. In a sense, Conrad’s infant vulnerability kept his mother alive through that ordeal. This time, Terry became submerged in a deep melancholia that doctors later said may have been brought on or aggravated by the hormonal changes of menopause. Although she was receiving treatment and was about to see a specialist in women’s mental health issues, Terry became convinced that Conrad and I would be better off without her — without a mother and wife stricken by an unbearable, invisible weight pressing down on her heart. This state of mind, unfathomable to healthy people, is a common symptom of major depression, as William Styron’s wrenching first-person account, “Darkness Visible,” makes clear. Cancer of the spirit, as insidious as any of the varieties that attack the flesh, stole a woman who embodied the radiance and beauty of her island home.

Walking past that calendar entry now, staggered by a wave of grief, I feel as if the couple’s laughter is mocking me. Those joyous cartoon characters strolling arm in arm along the beach appear to be a cruel caricature of my lost future.

In better moments, the whimsy of the drawing reminds me of the wonderful serendipity of our own romance: a scruffy college sophomore from rural Wisconsin meeting an enchanting 21-year-old woman from Hawaii in front of a train station in Tokyo. The aging cartoon couple calls to mind the nearly 30 years of life Terry and I shared after that first encounter, years full of travel (25 countries together, by my count), professional striving (mostly my own) and the day-to-day challenges of child rearing and household life, punctuated by an occasional triumph, like Terry’s completion of her Ph.D dissertation in art history after years as a full-time mother. Our marriage had the typical imperfections of any deep relationship forged over time through a continuous process of negotiation and compromise. We knew disappointments and doldrums. But across the decades, we built something truly worthy of celebrating with an embrace and shared laughter in the sunset.

I plan to keep that calendar entry right where it is on the desk in my bedroom, for as long as it lasts. As my son and I adapt to the new configuration of our family, and as I try to envision a future through the ashes of my plans for the “golden years,” that scrap of paper reminds me of something else, uplifting and joyous — the most beautiful of scripture passages, recited at countless weddings throughout the ages, including our own: Love endures all things. Love never ends.

Curtis J. Milhaupt is a professor at Columbia Law School.


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