New England, we have a problem. It's not just Connecticut suffering from economic troubles.
Much of the region is falling into long-term economic stagnation. We are losing jobs, income and population — particularly young adults — to other states.
Connecticut reported the slowest economic growth of all 50 states last year, but its weak performance is not alone. Rhode Island and Connecticut both have unemployment rates that are worse than the national average.
Total payroll jobs in New England, about 7 million workers or 5 percent of all U.S. employment, are below where they were in 2000. In Connecticut, total employment of about 1.7 million workers is lower than in 1989 — 24 years ago.
Four years into the economic recovery, the region still is showing little growth in manufacturing and construction jobs, which are important for less-skilled workers. Connecticut actually lost construction jobs in June and July, during the peak summer construction season.
High-paying finance, banking, insurance and real estate companies have merged, consolidated, downsized or relocated away from New England. Employment in the financial sector is significantly below its peak 2007-2008 levels.
Even the Greater Boston area, the leading economic center of the region, reported a slowdown during the second quarter of 2013.
Politically, New England is poised to lose another congressional seat after the next national census, this time in Rhode Island.
If not reversed, these trends mean less economic viability for the next generation of New England workers, fewer high-wage jobs, a lower standard of living and a slow, downward spiral.
In a no-growth scenario, potentially more and more taxes will have to be levied on the same or fewer workers. New England will become less competitive and have less importance at the national level.
But the picture is not entirely hopeless. New England has potential.
Skilled workforce: Massachusetts and Connecticut top the list of states for the percentage of residents holding college and graduate degrees, though other states achieve better high school graduation rates.
Technology leadership: New England is a major center for biotechnology and other fields.
Education: It is home to world-renowned colleges and universities, about 270 in total.
Medicine: Its doctors, hospitals and medical schools are the best in the world.
Culture: Nationally known institutions in music, painting, theater and other art forms are based here.
Picture-postcard charm: New England boasts historic, livable communities, beaches and recreation, along with modern office, hotel and conference facilities.
Income: Personal income is much higher than the national average, though that is offset by high costs for housing, energy, tuition and some of the highest property taxes in the U.S. And other states' income levels are growing faster.
Overall, New England has the capacity to revive its long history as a smart, successful, strategic region between New York and Canada. But it won't happen without real effort.
Specifically, the problem is part perception and part reality.