By Jerry Kopel
Colorado unemployment exceeds the national average. Our public school teachers make less salary than the national average school teacher does. Our welfare numbers are higher.
However, personal income is higher, our prison population ranking hasn't changed for a number of years, and the state pension funds are doing better, if you call being next to last instead of last, better.
Official data from Sourcebook 2005, a yearly publication of Governing Magazine, is sometime based on previous years, not out of laziness, but because more recent information for all states is not available from the U.S. Census Bureau or other national statistics gatherers.
Public School Teachers' Salary
Sourcebook used the National Education Association statistics for 2003-04 to track average teacher salaries. Colorado was 22d with $43,319. The problem is, the average public school teacher salary for all the states, was $46,726.
While $43,319 was $640 better than in 2002-03, it left Colorado $207 further behind the national average.
California, with its higher cost of living, was No. 1 at $58,287. Utah was last with $38,976.
Unemployment in Colorado for 2005, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 138,700 or 5.5 percent of a labor force of 2,520,000. That makes Colorado 20th highest in unemployment. The overall average in the U.S. was 5.2 percent.
Last year, there were 121,000 unemployed, or 4.9 percent of the Colorado labor force. Colorado was below the U.S. average of 5.7 percent.
The worst state in unemployment for 2005 is Michigan at 7.6 percent, followed by Alaska at 7.4 percent. The best state was Hawaii at 2.6 percent, followed by Virginia at 3.4 percent.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, for the year 2004, Colorado had 39,005 persons on welfare, which ranked us 42d. That's not a bad place to be, except that it is 12,000 more on welfare than in 2001, when we ranked 48th.
Personal Income Per Individual
Colorado is doing well on yearly personal incomes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis for 2004. With $36,063 we ranked seventh in the nation. That is about $1,800 more than in 2003, when we ranked eighth. We are about $3,000 more than the national average.
State Prison Population
There are two ways to look at prison population. First, count how many actual prisoners are in state prisons, regardless of how your state ranks in total population. Second, count how many prisoners you have in contrast to your state population.
In 2004, Colorado had 19,756 state prisoners, which ranked us 25th in actual numbers, regardless of the population in each state. The rank of 25th has been stable (or stabile) in Colorado for many years. Sourcebook numbers were from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2004.
The 19,756 state prisoners means we had 429 prisoners per 100,000 population, which ranked us 19th. Colorado had been 20th, going back to 2000, when we had 16,833 state prisoners, or 403 per 100,000 population.
What has been happening in Colorado is that our prison numbers are steadily climbing, but in step with the rest of the nation.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
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