Population of working poor increases
Colorado's working-poor families have increased 51 percent from 2004 to 2010, according to a report released Monday by The Bell Policy Center.
"These are hard-working families, and they are not keeping up," Rich Jones, one of the 2010 report's authors, said in the study. "That has grievous implications for the rest of us and for the economic health of our state."
The new report is an update of a 2004 Bell report called "Opportunity Lost: When Hard Work Isn't Enough for Colorado's Families."
Based in Denver, The Bell Policy Center is a nonprofit, non-partisan group that conducts research and advocates for public policy that reflects "progressive values," according to the center.
The 2004 survey reviewed economic indicators, and their impact on the state's poor and low-income working families. It showed those families struggled to make enough money to meet their basic needs.
The updated report found that, with the recession, low-income families are struggling more and "now fare far worse on many of the same indicators examined in the 2004 report. What is even more disconcerting is that much of the new data does not reflect the full effects of the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression," according to Bell.
Highlights of the 2010 report in Colorado include:
• Number of working-poor families – up 51 percent since 2004, to 48,410 from 32,124. (This year's number is 8.3 percent of all working families, while the 2004 figure is 5.8 percent.)
• Working families that don't earn enough to meet basic needs – 25 percent, or 151,875 families. That's up from 20 percent in '04.
• Future security – Workers without any type of employer-provided pension grew by 275,000 people, to nearly 1.7 million, since '04.
• Underemployment – As of mid-2010, 14.6 percent of Coloradans – about one in seven workers – either were not working or couldn't find full-time work.
• Unemployment – As of November, the state's unemployment rate was 8.6 percent, which was below those of many other states, but the highest Colorado rate since 1983.
• Total personal income – Expected to grow 2.3 percent in 2010, down from about 5 percent most years. In 2009, personal income declined 2.1 percent – the first annual decline since 1938.
The report is part of The Bell Policy Center's involvement in the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative supported by nonprofit groups such as the Ford Foundation to help such families achieve economic security.