The Rocky Mountain Region in 2007 is seeing lower unemployment and faster economic
growth than the rest of the nation, but that doesn’t mean average workers in the Rockies
are enjoying fatter wallets. In states like Arizona, where service jobs are prevalent,
almost a third of all working parents have low hourly wages.
"America needs more good jobs at good wages," Robert Kuttner, co-founder of the
Economic Policy Institute, wrote last fall in The American Prospect. "The combination of
deregulation, global low-wage competition, and the attack on unions has reduced the
supply of reliable jobs with decent wages, benefits, and career prospects. This shift comes
at a time when other social supports have been cut."
That narrative description of the plight of American workers is supported by data. In
2005, for the fifth consecutive year, median family income declined for non-elderly
households. For a historical look at how that period contrasts to earlier periods of real
family income growth, and how less affluent Americans have fared particularly poorly
since 2000, see http://www.stateofworkingamerica.org/tabfig/01/SWA06_Fig1I.jpg
The weak job market of 2006 has persisted into early 2007, according to the Center for American Progress.
Economic insecurity is not just a worry faced by the poor and working poor, but the
middle class as well. In recent congressional testimony, Rutgers University professor
Eileen Applebaum probed the paradox of a nation that is far richer than a generation ago
but one where "The overwhelming majority of American families haven’t shared fairly in
this bounty ."
Those with fewer skills and less education have faced growing income inequality since the
1970's, according to Princeton University economics Alan Blinder, who also sees a growing
threat in the offshoring of service jobs .
With the decline in traditional pension plans today's workers face even more uncertainty as
they grow older.
For a detailed look at the struggles of the working poor in one metro area, see this 2005 series
in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It's a story that rings true throughout the U.S. and the West,
and a trend that Western Progress will work to reverse. Many states in the Rocky Mountain
Region are working to correct wage inequities. You can check out the groups working in
your state through Six Strategies for Family Self-Sufficiency .