Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reports show 7.2 percent of El Paso County adults were unemployed in December 2013, down from 8.7 percent in December 2012.
That would appear to be good news. Not so, said Fred Crowley, UCCS professor of economics and local market observer. Figures also show that about 5,000 people dropped out of the workforce.
“If not for that, the rate would be unchanged from a year ago,” Crowley said.
Statewide, employment picked up, adding 30,000 jobs in 2013. Because Colorado Springs has roughly one-10th the state’s population, “we should get 3,000 of those jobs,” Crowley said.
However, state figures show 274,376 people were employed in El Paso County in December 2012, compared with 274,091 in December 2013, a difference of 285 jobs lost in the year.
But because the county workforce declined from 300,562 to 295,416, the unemployment rate went down.
“It is not good news. We continue to struggle with jobs,” Crowley said. “We are not growing quality jobs — jobs that pay an above average wage, provide benefits and have a high multiplier effect in the economy.”
The multiplier effect refers to the spinoff of other jobs directly impacted by the primary job. Manufacturing jobs have a higher multiplier effect than the service sector, Crowley said.
“Nationally, there’s a small level of growth in manufacturing right now. We continue to lose manufacturing jobs,” Crowley said. Between 2002 and 2012, the percentage of manufacturing jobs in El Paso County plummeted from 9.95 percent of the jobs to 5.71 percent, he said.
State figures include local government workers and federal employees, but not military.
“As important as it is to grow jobs, it is important to keep the jobs we have, including the military,” Crowley said, adding the military drives between 30 percent to 40 percent of the economy.
With the Base Realignment and Closure process looming in 2017, Crowley said, “We have no idea what they’re going to do.”
During BRAC in 2005, El Paso County picked up thousands of military jobs but, Crowley said, “at some point, it’s going to affect us.”