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Colorado PoliticsColorado PoliticsDecember 29, 20174min367

Black and Latino workers in the state continue to struggle with stagnant wages, according to new report published by Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

The “State of Working Colorado” shows that most Colorado workers have seen few if any gains in recent years, the center said.

“Meanwhile, black and Latino workers still face alarming disparities in income, education and poverty over their white peers. 

If these findings seem to contradict forecasts that Colorado’s economy is booming, that’s because the state’s economic gains are concentrated among the richest households,” the center stated. “Furthermore, while Colorado has added hundreds of thousands of new jobs over the past 10 years, the job growth is not keeping pace with the population growth and a larger share of these jobs pay lower wages.”

Colorado Center on Law and Policy produces the annual report, it said, to help policymakers create opportunities for Coloradans across the racial spectrum.

“While Colorado’s productivity and economic growth have improved dramatically since the Great Recession, the metrics for workers’ economic security have not improved for most workers. Communities of color in particular are being left behind,” executive director Claire Levy said. “Unfortunately, as higher wages and better jobs continue to elude most Coloradans, the cost of housing, child care and health care continues to rise — deepening many workers’ financial woes.”

Others say just the opposite is true, that first-line recipients of this year’s growth are middle-income, blue-collar workers who have endured stagnant wages for nearly two decades.

The center is backing legislation in the upcoming legislative session “to ensure that more Coloradans can seize the opportunities of our growing economy.”

Among this year’s findings:

  • Wages have remained stagnant over the past decade regardless of education level and despite growing productivity — making it increasingly difficult for low- to middle-wage workers to keep up with the rising cost of living in the state. In 2016, the median hourly wage in Colorado was $18.92 — still below the 2007 median wage after adjusting for inflation.
  • Meanwhile, the wealthiest Coloradans saw their wages grow much faster and more consistently than middle- and low-wage earners across the state. Those in the 80th and 90th percentiles on the income spectrum experienced income growth of 6.3 and 12.2 percent, respectively since 2000.
  • Though the statewide unemployment rate has dropped significantly, black and Latino workers still face higher levels of joblessness. In 2016, the unemployment rate for Latinos was 4.8 percent — two percentage points above that for white workers (2.8 percent). Latinos also experienced relatively high rates of underemployment (10.6 percent) compared to white workers (6.4 percent) in 2016. Unemployment for black Coloradans at 4.5 percent also was higher compared to white workers but Black workers experienced a slightly lower level of underemployment at 5.5 percent.
  • Median income varies substantially by race and ethnicity, even after adjusting for education. In Colorado in 2016, median income for Latino households was 69 percent of white median household income. Among black households, median income was 67 percent of white households.
  • Though Colorado added nearly 305,700 jobs since 2007, a growing share of jobs don’t pay enough for single adults to meet their budgeting needs. An estimated 20.5 percent of jobs added pay less than the self-sufficiency rate — up from 9.4 percent in 2001.

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