Colorado manufacturing sector shed 40,000 jobs over ten years

When looking at factors leading to increased income inequality, some of the story is told by manufacturing sector trends. Since January 2002 Colorado has lost more than 40,000 manufacturing jobs, a 25 percent reduction. Although much of that resulted from the Great Recession (which started in December 2007), the chart below shows that manufacturing job losses were the norm over nearly all of the decade.

What does this have to do with rising income inequality? Research shows that part of the changes in income distribution in the US can be explained by differences in educational attainment. People with college degrees make more, on average, than people without them, and this earnings gap is increasing over time.

Historically, manufacturing jobs provided a path to a middle class income without requiring a college degree. Indeed, the average hourly earnings for a manufacturing sector worker in Colorado in December 2011 was $24.59 (note that this includes engineers and other professionals who work for manufacturing based companies). So, as these jobs go away, there are fewer paths to prosperity for Coloradoans without a college degree.

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