NEW UNEM­PLOY­MENT NUM­BERS PUZ­ZLING

Colorado’s la­bor mar­kets take un­ex­pected turn when hir­ing is weaker than ex­pected

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Aldo Svaldi

Colorado’s la­bor mar­kets take un­ex­pected turn when hir­ing is weaker than ex­pected.

Colorado’s unem­ploy­ment rate was ex­pected to rise from 3.5 per­cent to 3.9 per­cent this year as more work­ers came back into the la­bor force, ac­cord­ing to a fore­cast last De­cem­ber from the Univer­sity of Colorado Boul­der.

But not long af­ter the Colorado Busi­ness Eco­nomic Out­look came out, Colorado’s la­bor mar­kets took an un­ex­pected turn. The state’s unem­ploy­ment rate dipped to a his­toric low of 2.3 per­cent in April and stayed there in May and June, de­spite slower than ex­pected job gains.

“Colorado em­ploy­ment in 2017 is now pro­jected to in­crease by 55,800, or 2.2 per­cent for the year,” said Brian Le­wandowski, as­so­ciate direc­tor of the Busi­ness Re­search Di­vi­sion at the Colorado Leeds School of Busi­ness, as part of a midyear up­date for the orig­i­nal fore­cast.

Back in De­cem­ber, CU Boul­der fore­cast­ers were call­ing for the ad­di­tion of 63,400 jobs, which rep­re­sented a 2.4 per­cent rate of growth. They ex­pected the num­ber of un­em­ployed to rise from 100,500 to 114,000 dur­ing 2017.

That anom­aly oc­curs be­cause a good job mar­ket in the­ory will draw in work­ers on the side­lines. But in June, the num­ber of un­em­ployed stood at 67,193. The state has ex­pe­ri­enced that de­cline de­spite softer eco­nomic growth and slower than ex­pected job gains.

Colorado’s GDP rose 0.4 per­cent be­tween the fourth quar­ter of 2016 and the first quar­ter of 2017, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the U.S. Bureau of Eco­nomic Anal­y­sis. By con­trast, in Texas, state GDP was up 3.9 per­cent, Wash­ing­ton was up 2.7 per­cent and Utah 1.9 per­cent be­tween the fourth and first quar­ters.

For all of 2016, Colorado’s GDP rate rose 2 per­cent, which was the 10th-fastest of any state. The three fastest-grow­ing in­dus­tries that helped drive that growth were in­for­ma­tion, up 8 per­cent, con­struc­tion, up 5.3 per­cent and ed­u­ca­tion and health ser­vices, up 4.9 per­cent.

Colorado for two months had the low­est unem­ploy­ment rate in the coun­try, un­til South Dakota joined it at 2.3 per­cent in

June. Fort Collins-Love­land had the low­est metro unem­ploy­ment rate in the state, at 2.1 per­cent, fol­lowed by Boul­der at 2.3 per­cent, Greeley at 2.5 per­cent and metro Den­ver at 2.5 per­cent. Even the lag­gards, Grand Junc­tion at 3.6 per­cent and Pueblo at 4 per­cent, had unem­ploy­ment rates be­low the U.S. av­er­age in June of 4.4 per­cent.

What makes Grand Junc­tion’s low unem­ploy­ment rate stand out is that it added only 200 jobs the past year, and its 0.2 per­cent an­nual rate of job growth ranked 330th in the coun­try. De­spite that, its unem­ploy­ment rate fell from 6.1 per­cent in June 2016 to 3.6 per­cent in June 2017.

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