How McDonald's, Fossil Fuels, and China Are Contributing to Colorado's Economic Recovery

April 20 2011, 8:23 AM

A McDonald's manager can earn as much as $60,000 a year, but even one of its mostly minimum-wage jobs "is a good job," says Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who stopped by a Denver Golden Arches yesterday during the fast-food chain's highly promoted "national hiring day" (Denver Post). Slate writer Annie Lowry doesn't necessarily share the governor's perspective, wondering, "Has the recession turned us into a nation of McWorkers? More precisely, what kind of jobs has the recovery ginned up?"

In Colorado, an engaging report by Headwaters Economics offers some insight into those questions when it comes to the fossil fuels industry: specifically, natural gas and oil mining accounts for just 1.4 percent of the state's total employment, and 1.9 percent of personal income. In fact, mining in the Rocky Mountain West has suffered a greater hit from the recession than construction.

Still, drilling for natural gas remains a lucrative endeavor when prices are high, and China's "largest offshore energy producer," Cnooc, has claimed a $1.27 billion stake of the Niobrara shale project that cuts into northern Colorado (Post). The deal is an example of what area mayors and business leaders hope will fall into a "trade-friendly zone" between Denver and China. Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet appears to be taking a similar interest on a national level as part of a delegation touring China this week (Politico).