By DAVID GROVES
(June 13, 2014) — Every year, corporate lobbying groups inundate Washington’s elected officials with state-by-state rankings in an effort to convince them to change policies. These rankings tend to be about business competitiveness — how the state compares to others on everything from workers’ compensation premiums, to unemployment insurance costs, to the general “business climate” — with the implication being that lowering such costs and addressing this particular climate change will create jobs and make things better.
A reminder was offered this week that there are some more important measurements of how Washington compares to other states on working families’ issues. Like, is this a good place to work? Are we happy and healthy?
Forbes magazine reports this week that Washington has earned the No. 1 ranking as the “Best State to Make a Living,” based on a MoneyRates.com comparison of the average salary, cost of living, employment rate, and workplace conditions for each state. It’s the second year in a row that Washington has topped the list, having come in second place each of the two years before that.
But as they say, money can’t buy happiness. Washington may be the best place to work by this measure, but how do we perceive our quality of life? The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveys residents of each state and ranks them on five elements of well-being:
► Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
► Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
► Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
► Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
► Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily
In the latest rankings, Washington has the 8th best well-being. Not too bad.
Politico Magazine, using data from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI, weighed factors like high school graduation rates, life expectancy and crime rate in determining which states are “strongest.” Washington ranked 9th.
We’re also “union strong” compared to other states. Washington has the 4th highest in unionization rate, with the state’s 546,000 union members accounting for 18.9% of the overall workforce in 2013. That’s one of the reasons why we’re the Best State to Make a Living, by the way, because union members earn more money — $200 more per week on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When people make more money, they not only have greater economic security to improve their sense of well-being, they also spend more money. And that’s good for business.
Which brings us to the aforementioned business rankings. While corporate lobbying groups tend to selectively choose rankings that make the state look like a costly and undesirable place to do business, as the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO has tried (and tried and tried) to remind pundits, policymakers and the public, Washington is consistently ranked as one of the very best states to do business.
But in highlighting the national business rankings in which Washington performs well, labor advocates could stand accused of deliberate rose-colored selectiveness, in the same way as the corporate nattering nabobs of negativism.
So, in the interest of balance, here’s a quality-of-life ranking where the Evergreen State doesn’t perform so well.
Washington is one of the states that’s Least Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, according to Estately.com. The state was dragged down by the relatively low percentage of Washingtonians who listed martial arts, laser tag, paintball and Ironman triathlons as an interest on their Facebook pages.
Well, we’re still ranked higher than Oregon.