Colorado Unemployment Rate Drops to 3.6%

Earlier today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released employment and unemployment data  Colorado. It was a mixed blessing.


The Colorado unemployment rate for November dropped to 3.6%, down from 3.8% in October and 4.3% a year ago.

Nationally, the unemployment rate declined in 45 states compared to a year ago. By contrast only 27 states have rates lower than October. Colorado’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has been at or below 4.2% since December 2014 and there is little room for it to drop much further.

For job hunters this is good news as long as their skills match the available jobs. In addition, there will be upward wage pressure for occupations facing a shortage of qualified workers, such a construction, machining, and technicians.

On the other hand, the lower rate may be bad news for some companies. They may have greater difficulty finding qualified and clean workers. As a result they may have to pay higher wages for skilled positions. In addition, there is greater employee turnover during times of lower unemployment. This may decrease productivity and increase recruitment, hiring, and training costs. These increased costs will lead to lower profit margins and increased prices.

At the end of November there were 102,035 unemployed workers in Colorado. This is only 8,306 greater than the trough in May 2007 and 138,542 less than the peak in October 2010.

unemployment rate


Despite the lower unemployment rate, November wage and salary job growth was lackluster, only 43,600 greater than a year ago. During the first half of 2015 Colorado employment increased at an average monthly rate of about 5,600 jobs. That average has dropped to 3,900 jobs during the second half of the year.

Even with the declining rate of job growth Colorado will add 55,000 to 60,000 jobs this year – prior to BLS benchmark revisions that will be released in March 2016. Those revisions may push 2015 average employment to 70,000+. The leading sectors for job growth are Health Care, Accommodations and Food Services, and Construction.

As the level of job growth has tapered off there has been an increase in the number of discussions about a recession; however; the Fed’s recent decision to hike interest rates suggests the economy is on solid footing and a recession will not occur in the short-term.

Long Term Unemployment Remains Uncomfortably High

Since the end of the Great Recession in July 2009, the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.5% to 6.2%. In addition, the country has added 8.8 million jobs.

There are two ugly truths about the workforce that are seldom discussed in connection with this good news.

  • The first ugly truth  is that there are about 9.5 million unemployed in the U.S, a decline of about 5.3 million from the end of the recession. That is the good news. The bad news is that there were only about 6.7 million unemployed prior to the Great Recession.
  • The second ugly truth is that almost one-third of the total unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, a decrease from 45%. By comparison, between 15% and 20% of the total unemployed were out of work between June 2005 and August 2008.

On paper the Great Recession ended five years ago. In reality the number of unemployment and the percentage of long term unemployment are inconvenient truths five years later.

long term unemployme


U.S. Employment Posts Strong Growth Through Five Months

On June 6th the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. employment increased by 217,000 in May. The sectors adding the highest number of jobs were:
• Professional and business services.
• Health care and social assistance.
• Food services and drinking places.
• Transportation and warehousing.

For the past 12 months, U.S. employment has averaged 197,000 jobs per month. After a weak January, an average of 213,600 jobs has been added in the first five months of 2014. This is well above the average of 194,600 for 2013.

The May unemployment rate was 6.3%, down from 7.5% a year ago. The number of unemployed was 9.8 million. This is 1.9 million lower than a year ago.

After a weak second half in 2013, there is strong growth in U.S. employment through the first five months of 2014.


U.S. employment shows strong growth in 2014
U.S. employment shows strong growth in 2014.

Despite Solid Job Growth the Number of Unemployed has Dropped Very Little in 2013

This year Colorado is expected to add over 55,000 wage and salary workers, an increase of about 2.5%. This equates to about 4,600 jobs each month.

But there is a downside.

Between January and March of this year the unemployment rate dropped slightly from 7.3% to 7.1%. Since then the rate has moved within the range of 6.9% and 7.1% (see blue line in chart below). These changes are not statistically significant.

The unemployment rate has been stagnant because there has not been a significant change in the size of the labor force or the number of unemployed.

In August, there were 194,068 unemployed workers in Colorado (see red line in chart below). As a point of reference, the lowest number of unemployed prior to the recession was 93,736 in April 2007 and the peak was 245,928 in October 2010.

The number of unemployed workers declined by 6,628 between January and August; however, there was a drop of only 1,561 between March and August. In August 2013 the number of unemployed was 194,068.

Some high tech industries are struggling to find qualified workers, particularly in specialized positions. On the other hand, the unemployment rate in other industries remains in double digits. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that a portion of the sidelined workers do not have the skills or education to fill positions in industries with low unemployment rates.

Clearly, the recovery from the Great Recession created a dysfunctional economy.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

U.S. Job Recovery Slower than Colorado

Coloradans breathed a sigh of relief when the BLS released June data showing the state’s wage and salary employment finally returned to the 2008 peak. (For more information about the Colorado situation, click here.)

Nationally, it is a much different story. The U.S. is still about a year away from returning to the 2008 job peak.

U.S. employment topped out at 138.1 million in January 2008. By February 2010, the number of wage and salary jobs had plunged to 129.3 million, a decrease of 8.8 million workers.

At the end of July 2013, 6.7 million jobs had been added since the trough and employment had reached 136.0 million. Slightly more than 2.0 million jobs are needed to reach the pre-recession peak, or about 77% of the jobs have been recovered.

Over the past year, jobs have been added at a rate of about 190,000 per month. If they continue to be added at that rate, it will take another 10 months (May 2014) before the pre-recession peak is reached.

As a result of the Great Recession, the number of unemployed workers jumped from 7.7 million in January 2008 to 15.4 million in October 2010, i.e. the number of unemployed workers doubled. Since October 2010, the number of unemployed has declined to 11.5 million, a decrease of only 3.9 million.

For many Americans, the recovery from the Great Recession has been painful. For another group, the recovery will never happen.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.

CDLE Data – Many Have Not Recovered from Great Recession

With great excitement the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced that the state’s wage and salary employment finally returned to its peak in 2008.

It took five years for the state to return to the pre-recession employment levels.


A closer look at the unemployment data is even more disturbing. As a result of the downturn, the number of unemployed workers increased by 123,500. To date, this number has only decreased by 51,300. In other words, the number of unemployed workers is 72,200 greater than five years ago.

Clearly, there are many in the state who have not recovered from the Great Recession and the addition of 150,000+ jobs!

For additional details about the performance of the state economy, go to the website or click here.

©Copyright 2011 by CBER.