While the overall unemployment rate in Colorado has fallen slightly recently, those top line figures obscure a deep and painful recession hitting many Coloradans especially hard. Colorado Peak Politics has obtained a letter from the Director of the Colorado Department of Labor (CDL) to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), sent at the end of August, certifying 17 counties in Colorado as having surpassed 19.5% unemployment.

To see the letter, click here.

The letter, from CDL Director Alexandra Hall to Robin Pulkkinen, a loan specialist at USDA, certifies that 17 counties in Colorado have a "Not Employed Rate" exceeding 19.5%. "Not Employed Rate" is defined in the letter as:

"the percent of individuals over the age of 18 who reside within the community and who are ready, willing and able to be employed but are unable to find employment as determined by the department of labor in the State in which the community is located."

Many counties certified with a "Not Employed Rate" surpassing 19.5% are rural, but the list also includes major Colorado population centers like Mesa, Weld and Pueblo counties.  

As the below chart included in the letter demonstrates, the economy in Colorado is in a much deeper hole than many realize. Top line unemployment numbers may continue to improve, albeit aided by large numbers of Coloradans who stop looking for work, obscuring the real unemployment number, but that won't change the economic reality facing Coloradans living in these counties every day. 

Obama is relying heavily on a rebounding economy for re-election. What this letter, and the data found within, reveals is that to get to a point where Coloradans are happy with the economy is a long way off — most likely well past November 2012. 

The potential political impact could be to turn rural, conservative Democrats against Obama.

Elections are about two things: change or more of the same.

With the economy at near Depression-era levels in these Colorado counties, who in the world would vote for more of the same for President?