Feeling chipper about the economy? Think the future looks so bright, you gotta wear shades? Chances are, you’re either stuck in a 1980s time warp or … you live in Washington, DC. Gallup published its polling on economic confidence by state, and the only “state” to have a positive rating is the one where all the cash is going. Instapundit refers to this as a “Hunger Games update,” and it’s difficult to dispute that characterization:

Although scores on Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index improved in most U.S. states in 2013, the index remained negative in all 50. Only the District of Columbia had a positive index. Indexes were least negative in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and California. They were most negative in West Virginia, followed by Alaska. …

Most of the top 10 states in economic confidence in 2013 were the same as in 2012, but the rankings changed. Massachusetts (index score of -1) climbed five spots to top the list in 2013. California, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Wisconsin were new to the top 10, replacing Hawaii, South Dakota, and Virginia (because of ties, there were 12 states on the list in 2013, vs. 11 in 2012). Hawaii (-12 index score) and South Dakota (-21) were among the few states to experience decreases in their index scores last year. Hawaii’s index, though still above the national average of -16, dropped three points and South Dakota’s index dropped 10 points.

The District of Columbia (+19) is the clear outlier in economic confidence, having the only positive reading for 2013 and well above the readings for even the most optimistic states. Its confidence has taken a hit, however, since 2012, when its index was +29. Likely factors in the 10-point drop include October’s federal government shutdown as well as the sequestration spending cuts that occurred earlier in the year.

Other states with indexes significantly above the national average were Minnesota (-2), California (-5), and Texas (-8), as well as Nebraska, Maryland, and Iowa (all at -9). Connecticut, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin, at -10, also made the top 10.

Even that wan level of confidence appears misplaced, according to the Associated Press. After two bad jobs reports in a row and nearly five years of stagnation as recovery, Josh Boak wonders if this is as good as it gets:

In the 4½ years since the Great Recession ended, millions of Americans who have gone without jobs or raises have found themselves wondering something about the economic recovery:

Is this as good as it gets?

It increasingly looks that way.

Two straight weak job reports have raised doubts about economists’ predictions of breakout growth in 2014. The global economy is showing signs of slowing — again. Manufacturing has slumped. Fewer people are signing contracts to buy homes. Global stock markets have sunk as anxiety has gripped developing nations.

Some long-term trends are equally dispiriting.

Boak notes that last week’s CBO report predicts growth remaining in the 2% range over the next ten years, declining from the current annual level of 2.7% to 2.4% in 2024. That might have some relation to the production disincentives of ObamaCare, which the White House and its allies continue to spin as positive news about the elimination of “job lock.” Its actual impact will be a trillion dollars less in the economy over that same period, as Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee declared:


As the chart shows, the lost compensation increases every year from an estimated $108 billion in 2017 to an estimated $147 billion 2024. The analysis is based on numbers provided in a recent Congressional Budget Office report on Obamacare.

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that Obamacare will “cause a reduction of roughly 1 percent in aggregate labor compensation [wages, salaries, and fringe benefits] over the 2017-2024 period, compared with what would have been otherwise” (see page 117 of appendix C of CBO’s February 2014 Budget and Economic Outlook). CBO also suggests that the largest effect will occur among lower-wage workers who were the target of the law’s subsidized coverage expansion,” says a statement from the Republican-side of the Senate Budget Committee, explaining their methodology.

“CBO’s February 2014 baseline contains projections for total worker compensation under current law; i.e., with the President’s health law in place. Senate Budget Committee Republican staff took these nominal dollar estimates and adjusted them to account for the 1 percent reduction that CBO attributes to the health care law, in order to determine what total compensation would have been if the law had not been enacted. The difference between the status quo and the status quo ante amounts to $1.016 trillion in reduced compensation over the 2017–2024 period.”

As long as we keep passing policies that disincentivize work and investment, this will be as good as it gets — and it might not even be that good, as Steve Eggleston argued at DaTechGuy:

The news is worse on the actual number of people employed. That only increased by an unseasoned 3,090,000 between January 2009 and January 2014, and is over 1 million below what it was in January 2008. As a percentage of population, the unseasoned employment-population ratio dropped from 59.8% in January 2009 to 58.1% in January 2014. That is, other than the other 4 Januarys of the Obama Presidency, the worst January since 1984 (57.7%). On a sesonally-adjusted basis, the 58.8% employment-population ratio in January 2014 is worse than every month between January 1984 (58.8%) and September 2009 (58.7%).

Of course, you and your party see that as a good thing considering your response to the Congressional Budget Office report finding that over 2 million full-time equivalent positions won’t exist in 2024 because of PlaceboCare.

The younger generations took the past 5 years directly in the shorts. The number of employed among the “prime workforce”, those between the ages of 25 and 54, decreased by 1,409,000 on an unseasoned basis over those 5 years to 94,512,000. That is, other than the prior four Januarys, the lowest January employment number since 1998 (94,196,000). As a percentage of the population, the 75.94% employment-population ratio among 25-54 year olds is a drop of 0.51 percentage points from January 2009′s 76.45%, and is, other than the 4 Januarys in between, the lowest January since 1985 (75.7%). On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the 76.5% employment-population ratio among 25-54 year olds is the lowest between June 1985 (76.4%) and March 2009 (76.2%).

Job lock, or job block?