Lakewood - As the economic recovery continues creeping along nationwide, it's actually moving a bit faster in Colorado. According to a report from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, Colorado is expected to be in the top 10 states for job growth in 2012 and show better overall growth than the rest of the country. Said CU economist Richard Wobbekind, "The broader story here is Colorado entered the recession later, came out of the recession later and now appears to be accelerating past the rest of the country in terms of job growth and recovery."
Furthermore, Colorado's unemployment rate dropped to 8 percent in November, lower than the national average of 8.6 percent. According to the Denver Post, "For the year, the unemployment rate is down nine-tenths of a percentage point from 8.9 percent in November 2010. The number of Coloradans participating in the labor force increased 45,000, total employment increased 66,300 and the number of unemployed decreased 21,300."
Even the state's own budget projections are more optimistic as we head into 2012. The most recent budget projections show an additional $231 million going into the state's coffers thanks to, among other things, increased sales tax revenues – a sign of improved consumer spending.
This is both good for Coloradans and good for President Obama's chances to hold on to a key swing state. It's also why the universal Republican response, as epitomized by their circular firing squad over the payroll tax hike, appears to be, "Dammit, the economy is improving. Now what?" One of the statehouse Republicans' economic "solutions" on the state budget earlier this year was to—I am not making this up—cut school breakfasts for poor kids.
Interestingly, one of the reasons Colorado has remained somewhat protected from the economic hurricane is something Congressional Republicans don't understand: renewable energy. The solar industry alone has created 1,000 jobs here in the last year, more than 6,000 jobs total. Solar is so common here that my neighborhood auto repair shop has solar panels on the roof. I've also seen a couple of ads on local TV from Karl Rove's Crossroads operation attempting to make hash of Solyndra and support for solar energy. As Twitter puts it: #FAIL.
Why? Because Republicans might want to think twice about going after an industry that has created thousands of jobs in a swing state and in Republican-held congressional districts. General Electric just announced they are breaking ground on a new solar film manufacturing center in Aurora—now in Republican Mike Coffman's district—that will create more than 300 jobs at salaries of $50,000 each. Another awkward fact: Abound Solar in Longmont, in Republican Tea Party Rep. Cory Gardner's district, got a loan from the same program as Solyndra and has created more than 400 high-paying jobs (and growing).
Like Virginia, another top-tier swing state in 2012, Colorado's economy has withstood the worst of the recession. Our economy is looking a bit greener, despite Republican attempts to sandbag it by raising taxes on the middle class and undercutting the safety net for the most vulnerable Coloradans. This bodes well for Democrats going into the next election.