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The extent of economic insecurity in Utah got smaller in 2011 as the state's economy continued to move away from the Great Recession that ended three years earlier, according to a study of U.S. households.

Last year, 16.8 percent of Utah's population lost at least a quarter of its income. Bad as that was, it was an improvement from 18.4 percent in 2010, the nonpartisan Rockefeller Foundation said Thursday. In June, a previous version put the 2010 figure at 19 percent.

"That's a big drop," said Jacob Hacker a Yale University political scientist who compiled data for the study. "That suggests the Utah economy has come back substantially since the depths of the downturn."

The drop of 1.6 percentage points was better than all but three states, Hacker said. By contrast, the U.S. decline was 1.3 percentage points, to 18.9 percent from 20.2 percent in 2010. Even so, the 2011 figure still represents nearly one in five people who experienced significant losses.

The study, which Hacker called an economic security index, measures the percent of the population that experienced at least a 25 percent decline in household resources after paying for medical care and servicing their debts. The U.S. improvement marked the largest year-over-year decline in the past quarter-century, according to the study.

Falling unemployment rates and lower debt levels drove the Utah and U.S. improvements, Hacker said.

Despite the uptick, the share of Utah and U.S. populations that endured deep financial stress last year may actually have been higher than the study reports. Hacker said the data don't count the long-term unemployed because their incomes may have collapsed a year or more ago.

The study also overlooks people able to offset a large loss of income with savings, he said.

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