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How do five of the six states of New England manage to post better-than-average unemployment numbers, despite non-bustling economies, high minimum wage laws and fairly employer-unfriendly regulatory structures? I speculated about this point the other day, and got an interesting variety of responses.
I also got an interesting email response from Stanley T. Greer, newsletter editor for the National Right to Work Committee and senior research associate for the affiliated National Institute for Labor Relations Research:
If I remember right, the three New England states you mentioned were Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. They are all exceptional for one reason: From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Census Bureau data show that the number of 25-34 year olds nationwide increased by 9.6%. That is, there were 9.6% more people in this age bracket in 2009 than there had been in 1999. But in Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut, along with the other New England states and a few other states, the number of 25-34 year-olds declined significantly over the last decade for which data are available. In Vermont, it fell from 83,000 to 69,000 (17%), in Massachusetts, it fell from 939,000 to 856,000 (9%), and in Connecticut it fell from 446,000 to 411,000 (8%).
A combination of low birth rates 25-35 years ago, persistent out-migration of young adults just before or shortly after they start families, and moderate to low immigration from abroad means the share of the people in the age brackets with the most employment volatility (I’m sure trends for 16-24 year olds are similar in these states, though I don’t have the data before me), and the age brackets most likely to be affected by minimum wage hikes, is much lower in the New England states than it was just a few decades ago. And lower than anywhere else in the country. So New England, I posit, is using the Ebenezer Scrooge method to fight unemployment – by “reducing the surplus population [of potential employees].”
(Age-adjusted state population data come from the most recent edition of the Statistical Abstract, plus another edition about a decade ago. The latest data are available on line. I can scan you a copy of the older data if you’d like.)
The trouble with this kind of unemployment chemotherapy is that it also wreaks havoc with your economy. You might not know it from listening to all the Republican presidential candidates except Gary Johnson, but something similar is happening nationwide as the rate of illegal immigration has gone negative. Funny how nobody’s happy now the alleged problem of unfair competition for jobs has essentially disappeared.
Desire Under the Elms, the original drama of New Englanders desperate to move to sunnier states.