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Insecurity index shows Utah hit hard by recession

Published: Friday, June 22 2012 5:52 p.m. MDT

Nearly one in five Utah residents experienced large financial losses during the economic downturn, according to a report released Friday.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly one in five Utah residents experienced large financial losses during the economic downturn, according to a report released Friday.

“Economic Insecurity Across the American States,” is a state-by-state report of economic insecurity and found that Utah's insecurity index was at a record 19.5 percent in 2009, compared to the national average peak of 20.5.

The Economic Security Index is a comprehensive measure of economic security that tracks the proportion of Americans who see their available household income — income after paying for medical care and servicing their financial debts — decline by at least 25 percent from one year to the next. Those residents also lacked adequate financial reserves to replace the lost income.

The index showed that Utah had a slightly lower rate of economic insecurity than the country as a whole, ranking 29th among states on average from 2008-2010. But that translates into an estimated 379,000 Utah residents who suffered substantial financial losses in 2010.

ESI is part of the Campaign for American Workers initiative of the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation. The program seeks to improve economic security among American workers and their families. The index was developed by Yale University political scientist Jacob Hacker and a research team.

In 2010, Utah's ESI was 19.0 — which corresponds to almost 20 percent of individuals experiencing large economic losses. The ESI showed that, on average, insecurity in Utah rose by 27 percent between 1986 and 2010. That's an increase of an estimated 232,000 people experiencing economic uncertainty.

"The Great Recession was both broad and deep," Hacker said. "No part of the nation was spared.”

The report showed that nearly every state experienced record insecurity during 2008-2010, and every state experienced a significant rise in insecurity between 1986 and 2010 — a trend that began long before the recent downturn.

Each state had higher average insecurity between 1997 and 2007 than between 1986 and 1996, the report stated — indicating that American households were becoming more vulnerable to large income losses even before the Great Recession. The data also showed that state rankings of insecurity remained relatively consistent over the period from 1986 to 2010.

"There is a cyclical component to it, but there is a long-term trend of rising insecurity in the United States," said research associate and study co-author Stuart Craig.

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi had the highest levels of insecurity, while Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington and Wisconsin ranked as the most economically secure states.

The report data also indicated states in the South and West had higher insecurity, while Midwest and Northeastern states were most secure.

“While Utah experienced somewhat lower levels of insecurity than the country as a whole, that does not mean it has done well," Hacker said. "Even after the official end of the recession … economic insecurity is substantially greater in Utah today than it was a generation ago.”

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1

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