The State We’re In

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I am writing to introduce you to an exciting new feature of the NPQ Web site The State We’re In. This unique micro-site looks at what the variables are in individual state economies that most impact the work of nonprofits and the health of the communities they serve. I urge you to check this site out. On the site, you’ll see stories about the fiscal and economic conditions in 14 states, many of the articles written by the leaders of nonprofit associations from those states. While you are there, click on the states we’ve profiled and add your own stories and observations.

This important resource is part of NPQ‘s effort to involve its readers in collaboratively reporting on the conditions and work of nonprofits across the United States. We intend to keep this up, not only through engaging the NPQ readership around these 14 states, but adding more state profiles in the weeks to come. Stay tuned for the next phase of our “State We’re In” analysis and commentary.

But I also want to take a moment to talk about one of the most crucial variables that is deeply effecting the community and state policy and funding environments in which we work.

For months now we have been listening to pundits talk about the economy as being on the rebound. “But wait!” some say, “It may not feel that way!” Some recently have been making the distinction between the economy and the “real economy” and — call me slow — but I have finally figured out that there is a strong class distinction here. What brought me to this revelation? When on the same day there were again reports of the estimated $150 billion in projected Wall Street Bonuses and a report came out from Northeastern University’s Bureau of Labor Statistics declaring that the levels of unemployment among blue collar workers are at depression levels [PDF].

Specifically, in construction in September 2009 there were nearly 25 unemployed workers for every job opening and in manufacturing 17. In Massachusetts there were, for the first half of 2009, 65 unemployed construction workers to every one job opening. And what makes this worse is that no one can say how many of those jobs are likely to come back in the foreseeable future.

Personally, I tried to keep quiet about this yesterday with my daughter who is married to and has children with a sprinkler fitter who has been laid off since November.

Without all of us paying careful attention to economic justice and workforce issues in each of our states and nationally, the nonprofit sector will never be anything but a handmaiden and obfuscating mechanism for the faults of the larger economy. Again, as I urged in my last email, we must all pay attention to and get active on the structure of our state tax system and on the spending and revenue generation priorities as reflected in state budget decisions, not just those affecting our own nonprofit areas of interest, but those more broadly that should be helping the families and communities who hear about the nation’s purported economic recovery but have trouble finding much concrete evidence of it in their employment prospects and overall economic progress.