DENVER – Colorado’s unemployment rate fell to 5.6% in September as the state added 5,100 nonfarm payroll jobs but as its labor force fell by 900, though the state is still outpacing the U.S. in terms of job recovery from losses in the first two months of the pandemic.
The September seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was three-tenths of a percentage less than the August rate of 5.9% in Colorado. The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 5.2% in August to 4.8% in September.
Colorado has now regained 297,7000 of the 375,800 nonfarm payroll jobs lost in March and April of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic for a recovery rate of 79.3% -- above the U.S. rate of 77.8%.
As of September, 64.3% of Coloradans aged 16+ were employed, which ranks seventh in the country in terms of the employment-to-population ratio, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said. The number of people employed in Colorado grew by 9,300 in September.
But the labor force decreased by 900 people in September, something that happened as a whole across the U.S. in September as well. CDLE Senior Economist Ryan Gedney said it was currently difficult to determine if the job gains were coming from people who were previously unemployed or people who were not previously in the labor force.
According to the monthly household survey, Colorado employers added 5,100 nonfarm payroll jobs between August and September. Private sector payroll jobs increased by 8,4000 while government jobs fell by 3,300. August data was revised down for 5,000 nonfarm payroll jobs added.
Gedney said that the slowdown in added nonfarm payroll jobs in the past couple months compared to earlier this summer means the state needs to see jobs growth of 2 to 2.5 times higher in order for Colorado to get back to pre-pandemic jobs levels by early next year. He said an upcoming federal jobs report could be a “good indication” of where Colorado sits heading into the winter.
He said the job gain numbers were “decent” but still fall short of the average of about 12,000 jobs gained between February and July.
Since last September, Colorado has added 102,100 nonfarm payroll jobs – well over half of them coming in the leisure and hospitality and professional and business services industry that were hardest hit during the pandemic.
In September 2021, leisure and hospitality, which accounts for restaurant and hotel workers, gained another 3,800 jobs, while the trade, transportation and utilities industry gained 2,400 jobs.
Colorado’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.6% in September, which is identical to the U.S. rate and the lowest Colorado has seen since before the pandemic, when it was 2.9% in February 2020.
The counties with the highest non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in September remained mostly unchanged from August. Pueblo County’s rate fell from 7.9% to 7% but remains the highest in the state. Huerfano County’s rate fell from 7.8% to 6.5%; Las Animas County’s rate fell from 6.8% to 5.8%; Fremont County’s rate fell from 6.5% to 5.7% and Adam County’s rate dipped to 5.5% -- down from 6.2% in August.
Gedney said it was still too soon to tell based off the September report how the ending of federal unemployment benefits affected Colorado and the people who were still relying on them, as the household survey was taken the week of Sept. 12-18, a little more than a week after the benefits ended.
Gedney said that 50 Colorado counties had unemployment rates under 5% in September, compared to just 22 in September 2020. Pueblo had the highest rate among the seven metro areas at 7%. Boulder and Fort Collins had rates of 3.6% and 3.9%, respectively. Denver, Greeley, Colorado Springs and the Grand Junction metro areas had non-seasonally adjusted rates of 4.8%.
Gedney said the CDLE has seen about 2,000 regular unemployment initial claims for about the past six weeks – substantially lower than what it had seen through most of the pandemic but still higher than pre-March 2020 levels.
He said the ongoing pandemic was still causing “massive distortions” in the labor market and supply chains and a “completely different” economy that still contains volatility and noise in the data that labor departments are reporting.