State of Working Colorado 2012

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While the past decade has proved the resiliency of Colorado and the people who call the state home, it has also highlighted the need for forward-looking policies that help maintain a strong and stable economy that serves everyone who lives in the state. Colorado needs to increase its public investments to solidify its economic recovery and ameliorate the ongoing consequences of the Great Recession.

The past decade began and ended with recession. It saw economic growth and increased earnings, but the prosperity was not distributed evenly. While top earners experienced gains in wealth, poverty and unemployment reached historic highs across the state. The things that supported Coloradans were public safety nets that have been in place for decades. More people looked to programs such as public health insurance, unemployment insurance, and food assistance to stay afloat and get back on their feet. A range of indicators examined in this report show the public safety net did its job during the recessions and their aftermath. Now that a tentative recovery has begun, policymakers should repair the safety net and make investments that will pay off in the future.

The State of Working Colorado explores the environment Colorado workers have faced in the wake of recession. The report examines jobs, unemployment, income, wages, poverty, and health insurance from the beginning of the past decade to the beginning of the current one. It presents long-term trends and recent developments to assess how Colorado workers have fared through the past two recessions.

The findings pose hard questions for workers and policymakers about the kind of jobs, economic security and lifestyle the future Colorado will promote, and about the investment needed to attain that future. Smart investments now will have short-term benefits and long-term payoffs. As Colorado rebuilds for prosperity, residents must consider how to share gains, how to ensure policies help the middle class see real advances, and how to encourage continued productivity and innovation. In turn, the state’s economy will prove less volatile and more resilient.