UMass Study: Ranks Delaware First, Louisiana Last for Work Environment

BOSTON

Delaware ranked first and Louisiana last in a University of
Massachusetts study that tried to measure where workers are treated
best, based on factors including job opportunities, job quality and
workplace fairness.

Rounding out the top five best states for workers were New Hampshire,
Minnesota, Vermont and Iowa. After Louisiana, the next-lowest states
were Texas and Arkansas, along with three states that fared slightly
better in a tie: Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah.

The “Decent Work in America” study, released Tuesday by UMass Amherst’s
Political Economy Research Institute, was based on a “work environment
index” that compared states based on 2004 data. The data covered
factors including average pay; job opportunities; employee benefits;
percentage of low-income workers; fair treatment between genders; and
ability for employees to unionize.

Those factors were used in ranking states on a scale of 1 to 100 for
job opportunities, job quality and workplace fairness. Those three
numbers were averaged to determine an overall score, with Delaware
posting an 89 and Louisiana a 31.

Texas’ next-to-last ranking drew criticism from the state’s governor’s
office and from a Texas economic development official, who said the
abundance of small states near the top of the rankings indicates the
study criteria may be too narrow.

“The top five states represent states with fairly small state economies
that are not nearly as broad and complex as ours,” said Carlton
Schwab, president and chief executive of the Texas Economic Development
Council, a private nonprofit association of economic development
professionals. “They have a fraction of the economic activity that we
have in our state. Oftentimes, it may not be a fair comparison.”

Schwab also said Texas typically ranks highly by other economic
measures, including venture capital funding and business startups.

Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said, “This is a
survey done by a university with a very strong liberal bias, that has
driven a survey to fit its world view.

“Texas has created 200,000 net new jobs over the past two years because
of its very strong tax climate, its strong business climate, model tort
reform in the nation and its educated work force.”

Brigitte Nieland, a spokeswoman at the Louisiana Association of
Business and Industry, declined to comment on her state’s last-place
ranking, and messages left with Louisiana Economic Development, the
state’s development agency, were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The study’s authors, who expect to update the rankings annually, said
their findings were based on the first index to evaluate states’
treatment of workers rather than their business climates.

States ranking high for work environments generally enjoyed strong
economic growth and low poverty rates, with the reverse true for those
ranking low.

“This suggests that anti-poverty strategies focused on creating decent
jobs is viable as well as desirable, a finding that is especially
pertinent in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, whose impact was
devastating on the poor in New Orleans,” the authors said.

— Associated Press



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