Colorado Recovery Watch
National officials announced Sept. 20 the recession formally ended more than a year ago, in June 2009.i However, U.S. and Colorado employment figures remain gloomy, with unemployment up as small gains in private-sector employment fail to keep pace with population growth.
In August, the Colorado unemployment rate increased to 8.2 percent. Even at that high rate, Colorado continues to perform better than the nation as a whole. (Figure 1) Relative to other states, Colorado’s unemployment rate is the 21st lowest, and its increase in unemployment since the start of the downturn ranks 20th lowest.ii
Employment losses in Colorado have been dramatic and have continued well after the official end of the recession. (Figure 2) From peak employment in May 2008, Colorado has lost 166,400 jobs, or 7.1 percent of its non-farm labor force. In August, state employment decreased by 8,600 jobs and was down by 28,100 jobs from a year earlier.
The construction sector was one of the hardest hit during the Great Recession, to date losing more than one-third of total employment since the downturn began. (Figure 3) In August, Colorado construction employment remained effectively constant. (Figure 3) That standstill is a positive change after such a prolonged decline.
Job shortfall is a calculation to help put longer-term changes in employment into context. It measures the difference between actual employment and what employment would need to be to keep up with population growth. Tracking from the onset of the recession in December 2007 to August 2010, the Colorado job shortfall stands at 268,523 jobs. (Figure 4)
Medicaid and CHP+
In recent years, Colorado has seen consistent and substantial caseload growth in Medicaid and the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), programs that provide medical care for low-income residents and children, respectively. Enrollment growth in those programs accelerated during the recession and continues to outpace population growth. (Figure 5) In July, total Medicaid and CHP+ enrollment grew by 4,472, standing at 602,224.iii
The recession touched off a substantial need for the food assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The need has far outlived the official duration of the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009). According to the most recent count in June 2010, 417,989 Coloradans received food stamps. That is up 69 percent since the beginning of the recession and the start of the dramatic growth in Colorado food stamp enrollment.iv (Figure 6)
Waiting for a meaningful turnaround
Coloradans are relying on government support in increasing numbers to cope with high unemployment and poor economic growth. Until growth picks up, the official end of the recession means little to those struggling.
Contact: Alec Harris
303-573-5669, ext. 316
Released Sept. 21, 2010
i “NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee Announces Trough Date,” National Bureau of Economic Research: Business Cycle Dating Committee, Sept. 20, 2010. http://www.nber.org/cycles/sept2010.html
ii Economic Policy Institute analysis of U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Current Employment Survey data.
iii Analysis of “Premiums, Expenditures and Caseload Report,” Colorado Department of Health Care Policy Financing, July 2010 report.
iv Analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture SNAP program data, provided by: “SNAP/food stamp participation data,” Food Research and Action Center, Sept. 2, 2010.