Jobs Evolution: States’ Response to Emerging Economic Challenges

May 25 - 26, 2010, Custer, SD

Women In Government (WIG) hosted a conference addressing the important problem of unemployment by bringing attention to this issue with Jobs Evolution – States’ Response to Emerging Economic Challenges. WIG is a non-profit, bi-partisan organization of all female state legislators across the country which provides educational resources, expert forums, networking, and leadership opportunities.  To view the full conference proceedings, click here.  To view photos from this event, click here.

Unemployment and economic issues are the utmost priority of legislative concern for state policy makers. Women In Government members expressed their desire to have a conference on these issues at our 16th Annual State Directors’ Conference in early January, and in response to this need, the Jobs Evolution conference was organized. This need is marked by a national unemployment rate currently reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as 9.7 percent, and surpassing double digits in many states. Individual state responses to this national challenge require a wide variety of potential employment creation opportunities.

The conference, held in Custer, South Dakota, brought together experts on the analysis of the current economic situation, leaders in markets with expanding job opportunities, and legislators to assess and learn how to deal with the crisis at hand. The 33 legislators from 13 different states were primarily from the Midwestern region.

The presentations framed important discussions on:

  • The Current Economic Landscape;
  • Economic Development Incentives – Do They Work?;
  • Building a Workforce and Demand for Health IT Jobs;
  • High-Demand Jobs;
  • Taking Advantage of Changing Markets;
  • Green Jobs;
  • Transportation’s Impact on Job Growth; and
  • Barriers to Retaining Jobs and Family Economic Success.

This conference not only energized state legislators, but also helped to develop a plan on how to deal with the difficult economy across the nation. WIG’s action in the face of economic inaction is a step in the right direction for all female legislators to find new and innovative ways to improve the lives of those in their constituencies and provide jobs for the unemployed.

Summary of Sessions

Current Landscape

Richard Mattoon, MA
Senior Economist & Economic Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

The realities of economic development and the workforce in the 21st century economy offer historic challenges and opportunities for policymakers. States are facing record-high unemployment, challenges trying to balance shrinking budgets, and federal stimulus money ending in 2011. With these challenges, policymakers must develop creative solutions to close deficits, ensure financial solvency for their states, and maintain a workforce.

Recessions prior to 2008 suggest that decelerating job growth was already taking place before this current recession. We already had net loss in jobs and went into the recession with a weak labor market. Unfortunately, states are not doing a strong job of matching the demand of economic development with the need to merge information and manage both demand and supply in state labor markets.

Long term focus should be on education and training. The higher an individual’s skill level, the less likely they are to be unemployed. Short term solutions focus on managing the transition for the unemployed can help and existing skills in unemployed workers can be adapted to emerging industries. The bigger issue is to improve labor market information that matches existing worker’s skills and the jobs that are available to them. Skills certification could help identify workers and match them with specific employer needs.

There is mixed evidence in determining the success of tax credits for employers, which may have simply reward firms that would have hired anyway. Unfortunately, a relatively slow recovery is likely already underway. Tight credit conditions, lingering uncertainty, and the need for balance sheet repair are significant issues. The labor market is looking for a new normal; unemployment will come down slowly and create a new “natural rate” of unemployment. The most effective strategies for reducing unemployment include, a reduction of friction in the labor market and improving labor market matching, as well as a better understanding of necessary skills and job demand, as much as who is unemployed and why.

View Presentation

Question and Answer

Q: What about stimulus not being enough? Khan, MI
RM: Public funding for education- what is most effective thing for policy makers? Build the best human capital that you can. Community colleges are key- need more money.

Q: Will healthcare reform help or hurt the economy? Orrock, GA
RM: Don’t know, depends where the money is going… and has the stimulus helped?

Q: About the bailout- what would the economy look like if we hadn’t done it? Jerstad, SD
RM: Things would be much, much worse. 401(k) would be wiped out instead of down.

Economic Development Incentives – Do They Work?

Robert Chirinko, PhD
Professor & Head, Department of Finance
University of Illinois at Chicago

During this session, Robert Chirinko discussed economic research that looked at whether state investment tax incentives are a zero-sum game. Legislation is produced to address initial incentives, which later result into final incentives, and can only then be assessed based on responses.

Focus on framework for legislators should be transparent, easy to understand, easy to implement, and finally provide measured responses and results. There are many frustrations with tax policy, as there are often multiple sides to each argument, and a lack of research to definitively prove either one. Often tax legislation results in disappointments where there is no solution to short-run fiscal imbalances, and no definitive answers from academia. But, legislators should be mindful of the usable framework to guide legislators and tax analysts in formulating policies, and utilize tax simulations.

View Presentation

Question and Answer

Q: Fair tax initiative and go-to-all sales tax; has it been done, and would it be successful? Days, MO
RC: With the new era push to go away from corporation taxes, should we stick with history? New taxes should be kept in consideration since economies are becoming more dynamic and interconnected (Greece, etc.)

  • International corporations could affect policy decisions

  • Clearing effect of recession; jobs shifted and relocated much more quickly

Q: What is the effect of taxing services (excluding legal and medical) would it significantly increase tax revenue? Are these negatives? Errington, IN
RC: Doesn’t seem to be negative, but research is split. Focus- target incentives to place or people?

  • People are mobile and could move

  • College versus training/community college

Building a Workforce and Demand for Health IT Jobs

Vice President, Policy & Government Relations
American Health Information Management Association

The use of electronic health records will dramatically change the delivery of healthcare in the future. States can support this transition, as well as foster high-growth, high-wage jobs by investing in training for the health IT workforce. Community colleges currently support career paths in basic IT fields. However, by 2016 entry level IT jobs may require a master’s degree because of value of type of data used. Therefore, information management and not just data collections will be the requirements of jobs and workforce. Currently, a six month program at a community college can provide an individual with enough information to become employed in the health information technology field. With the implementation of electronic health records it is important to provide community colleges with appropriate funding. Assistance with low interest, subsidized loans provided by the state can incentivize students who wish to pursue a career in this field. As this industry grows, additional job prospects can follow such as editing, auditing, system-data-records reporting, and hundreds of other health IT careers.

View Presentation

Question and Answer

Q: Is money going directly to students or community college? Allen, UT
DR: It depends on how the community college decides to implement the program.

Q: Will there be standardization of training? Schulte, IA
DR: Yes, it’s coming, but slowly. Also need to have state agencies go in and audit systems to make sure its working.

Q: Where can we go for information on standards, etc.?
DR: AHIMA and companies have a system portal to use- online training course, and are working with ONC to get in even more community colleges.

High-Demand Jobs

Marcia Black-Watson
Deputy Director, Employers
Bureau of Workforce Transformation
Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, & Economic Growth

Deborah Frett
Chief Executive Officer
Business and Professional Women’s Foundation

Healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and energy are anticipated areas of high growth, however; there is a shortage of trained workers. This session explored innovative state programs that encourage workforce training and development in support of high-demand and emerging careers. There are three fundamental strategies to making learning affordable and accessible using the No Worker Left Behind tuition program: prioritize adult education inclusively; put employers at the center of the system; and keep a focus on job retention since a job retained is a job created.

No Worker Left Behind focuses on employer demanded skills that develop the workforce around employer needs - and does not train for training sake. It is important to train where the jobs are and where they are going. A good idea for legislators is for the state to provide seed money for a forum for employers, partners, and educators.

View Presentation

Question and Answer

Q: What are challenges and how to address differences in urban versus rural populations and lack of access to community colleges? Miller, IA
MBW: Online training opportunities to go to other institutions; proprietary schools, etc; are eligible for NWLB; eligible for training, from to associates degree, to doctorate.

Q: What are specific ideas to take back to state? Brown, OH
Khan, MN: Continue to encourage women to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Q: What does NWLB do to address child care? Errington, IN
MBW: Supportive services, such as child care and transportation are needed to assist all adult learners.

Taking Advantage of Changing Markets

Senator Sue Errington
Indiana State Legislature

Revitalization incentives can encourage new and emerging industries to repurpose existing, but defunct, manufacturing facilities, as well as bring new jobs to the state. This session discussed recent legislation in Indiana and included idea-sharing and discussion among participants.

Indiana already had statutes that allowed each county to have two CREDs: asking for a third CRED required the county to go back to legislature for statutory approval. The county has established a local CRED commission to assess where to use the CREDs.

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Green Jobs

Elena Foshay, MSW, MA
Research Associate
Apollo Alliance

Clean energy is a huge and growing global market. As of 2009, more than $139 billion has been invested in clean energy worldwide. Clean energy will become the world’s third largest industrial sector by 2020. The Recovery Act included $110 billion in clean energy investments. Legislators can tackle this project with a two pronged strategy; first create demand for clean energy systems and components, and second make sure we can meet that demand with products made domestically.

Legislators should also remember that manufacturing matters, since the US has lost 6 million manufacturing jobs in the last decade, and 2.1 million since the recession began. The US manufacturing trade deficit has risen to $440 billion, which accounts for 60% of manufacturing job loss overall. Manufacturing represents 8% of national employment and 12% of GDP. Manufacturing and clean energy jobs offer a pathway to the middle class for the 68 percent of American workers with less than a college degree, pay better wages and more often provide health, pension, and other benefits. States such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio have created wind resource zones, energy efficient incentives, loans to small businesses, and clean energy training as part of their individual state initiatives to create green jobs within their states.

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Transportation’s Impact on Job Growth

Julie Bond
Senior Research Associate
Center for Urban Transportation Research
College of Engineering, University of South Florida

Good transportation networks can make the difference in whether business moves into or out of a state, while sustainable transportation can reduce congestion and improve work-life balance for employees. States can encourage job growth and worker satisfaction through transportation models, which is especially important since transportation choices play a major role in quality of life, influencing everything from access to economic opportunities to environmental quality and community safety.

Legislators should look at transportation costs when considering housing. College graduates and workers, as well as employers, often choose where to live and where to locate their businesses because of options for transportation. Legislators must provide choices, such as different routes, travel modes or lanes that involve a toll for high-speed and reliable service. They must also change the usage patterns by encouraging employers and travelers to conduct business to avoid traveling in the traditional “rush hours,” through telework and compressed work weeks.

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Barriers to Retaining Jobs and Family Economic Success

Rachna Choudhry, MPP
Manager, Policy & Advocacy
National Partnership for Women & Families

Even when the economy is strong, unemployment is low, and jobs are abundant, low- and middle income workers often face many barriers to retaining those jobs and enhancing their family’s economic success. States can support these workers’ success through a variety of options, such as access to affordable child care and sick days for working parents to take care of children.

The importance of paid sick leave helps workers address their family’s health and their own. By allowing workers to take paid sick days, it can also enhance public health by allowing workers to take paid sick days, it can also enhance public health by allowing workers to stay home rather than risk infecting fellow co-workers or the general public. 


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