Higher-income Coloradans see big employment and wage growth — everyone else does not | AspenTimes.com

Higher-income Coloradans see big employment and wage growth — everyone else does not

Alex Burness
The Denver Post
A waitress carries a plate from the French Alpine Bistro to their outdoor dining structure in Aspen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Coloradans at higher income levels are increasingly more likely than poorer people to be employed and to be enjoying salary growth, according to new economic data and analysis presented to state lawmakers on Friday morning.

Furthermore, the analysis suggests no imminent end to the widening of the gap between the state’s haves and have-nots.

“I think there was some hope that this would be getting better as the overall macro-environment improved; (that) there’d be a catch-up in the low-income part,” state Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat and Joint Budget Committee member, said at Friday’s hearing. “It’s getting worse, not better.”

Colorado’s economic outlook is optimistic overall, though analysts stressed repeatedly that the omicron variant of COVID-19 contributes to ongoing uncertainty. The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires the state to refund taxpayers in strong economic years, and, in a sign of how relatively well the state is doing now, analysts are now projecting close to $2 billion in total refunds in each of the next three fiscal years. Each of those totals would be by far the highest in the state since at least 2001.

After a brief dip in spring 2020, employment for people making at least $60,000 got back to roughly pre-pandemic levels by the summer of 2020, and legislative analysts now report that employment at this income level is up 9% over pre-pandemic levels.

By contrast, people at the middle and lower tiers have never gotten back to normal. Numbers presented Friday show employment for Coloradans making $27,000 or less is down 30% compared to before the pandemic. Employment at that tier is in fact falling, a sign that the rollback of federal unemployment benefits has not encouraged low-income workers to get back to work in as great of numbers as many officials hoped or expected.

For more on this story from The Denver Post, go to denverpost.com.

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