On one side of the state, the downturn has been brutal, slashing the jobs of the middle class and minorities. On the other side of state, the pain of recession has been dulled by increasing wages among the wealthiest residents. And the same scene plays out on a smaller scale in Fairfield County.
On Thursday, Connecticut Voices for Children released its annual report on the state of Working Connecticut.
Tracking five years of employment and income trends between 2006 and 2011, it found wage disparity has continued to expand in the state.
"Connecticut's middle class is being hollowed out," said Kenny Feder, one of the study's authors, who cited heavy losses in manufacturing as a key reason for the disparity. Connecticut's manufacturing sector lost 14 percent of its jobs between 2006 and 2011.
Connecticut Voices suggests raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour and finding ways to make the state more attractive to manufacturers by lowering energy costs and creating job training programs aimed at good paying careers and improving education as ways to reduce the wage gap.
A push to raise the minimum wage to this level failed in the last legislative session, and there are efforts under way to boost training programs for factory work in the state already.
According to the report, the top 10 percent earned $38.83 an hour more than the bottom 10 percent. The difference in 2006 was $34.06.
What's striking about the numbers is that the bottom 10 percent's pay in 2011 was $9.04 an hour, down 2 cents from 2006, while the top 10 percent's pay rose to $47.87 from $43.12, according to the researchers.
And the trend of virtual wage stagnation was seen among those making middle-income wages. Their pay rose to $20.29 from $19.81 during the same period.
He said unemployment has been growing in Bridgeport, while people are making more money in finance in Greenwich.
"It's not necessarily bad," Martin said of the gap. "But with huge concentrations of wealth, it does become worrisome for political and social instability."
What's key here is whether people can move between the different classes, he said.
"Income inequality can help to incentivize people to work harder," Martin said.
People also need to remember all those people earning a lot of money also pay a lot in taxes.
And, people move up and down in income brackets throughout their lives, Martin said.
Historically, younger people occupy lower paying jobs and then as they age, see their pay increase as they gain experience. At the end of careers, people retire and that can reduce their income as well.
Connecticut Voices said the increase in the upper income brackets and better employment picture in western Connecticut was in part due to the proximity to New York City, where many find jobs.
The Danbury metro market has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, and the Bridgeport-Stamford market has the second lowest.
The Danielson-Willimantic region on the eastern end of the state has the second highest unemployment rate, researchers said.
But even within Fairfield County, the wage disparity plays itself out between communities.
Bridgeport's unemployment rate, according to the state Department of Labor, is more than 13 percent, while the cities of Stamford and Danbury are at 7.7 percent.
Bridgeport and Greenwich might also be held up as examples of how job losses have disproportionately hit the minority communities.
"Between 2006 and 2011, the unemployment rates for black and hispanic workers rose every single year, reaching 17.3 percent for blacks and 17.8 percent for hispanics, in 2011. In contrast, the white unemployment rate fell in 2011, to 7.1 percent," the study said.
Bridgeport's population is diverse. Thirty-nine percent of residents are white, 34 percent are black and 38 percent hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Greenwich, with a 6.3 percent unemployment rate, is helped on a number of fronts, including having among highest median income in the state and its proximity to New York. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of Greenwich residents are white.