Colorado Springs’ unemployment figures decline

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Unemployment in Colorado Springs dipped from 8.1 to 6.9 percent from March to April, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Those numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

Figures show 3,577 additional payroll jobs were added to the Colorado Springs economy in April from March. Year-over-year, the April unemployment rate in the Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area went from 7.8 to 6.9 percent in numbers not seasonally adjusted. 

Colorado has a “nice strong economy,” said Colorado Chief Economist Alexandra Hall. “We’re seeing this growth fairly widespread; we can’t pin it to one or two sectors.”

“Over time, we are getting back closer to where we were before the financial crisis,” said Daphne Greenwood, a University of Colorado Colorado Springs economics professor. “For a while, people were concerned that people were dropping out of the labor force, but we seem to be through with that.”

Best since 2008

As Baby Boomers age, they drop out of the labor force by taking retirement with their pensions or Social Security, she said, adding that figures released last week show “it really is primarily new jobs being started at a higher rate. It’s definitely good news and going in the right direction.”

Statewide unemployment went from 6.2 percent to 6.0 percent from March to April, according to a survey of households. 

The last time the Colorado unemployment rate was 6.0 percent or lower was November 2008, when it was at 5.7 percent. 

“The drop is due to more people reporting themselves as employed,” Hall said. “We did add 14,400 more people reporting themselves as employed and 5,600 fewer asking for unemployment.”

The national unemployment rate in April was 6.0 percent.

Also, the state of Colorado added 13,900 jobs, Hall said. Of those, additional private-sector payroll jobs amounted to 13,300, and government jobs increased by 600.

“This is such a strong showing,” Hall said. “We see some really positive trends going on in Colorado.”

Colorado growth was seen in leisure and hospitality, which added 4,500 jobs; education, which added 3,800 jobs, and professional and business services, which added 2,400 jobs. 

Construction added 1,500 jobs and financial activity added 1,900. A decrease was seen in the category “other services,” which saw a decline of 1,600 jobs, and 200 in information, Hall said. 

When asked what’s driving the market now, Hall responded that people continue to move to Colorado. The aging population and incoming residents improve the education and health services category, she added.

Related, the housing market has “recovered fairly quickly, compared with the rest of the nation,” Hall said. “Because we have young people, whether they’re single or moving here with their families, and we have older retirees moving here, that’s helped real estate recover well,” she added.

Greenwood said the primary concern is job equality, to make sure more people are in permanent employment with higher wages and benefits. 

“People are working below their capabilities,” Greenwood said. “That’s a trend that’s worrisome.” 

The Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area includes El Paso and Teller counties. In Teller alone, unemployment dropped this year from 7.5 percent in March to 6.1 percent in April, when the number of unemployed went from 910 to 733 people. 

During that same time period, unemployment in El Paso County went from 8.1 percent to 7.0 percent, with the number of unemployed going from 24,389 to 20,812 persons.

Crunching more numbers

Over the year, non-farm payroll jobs statewide increased 70,800. Private sector payroll jobs increased 65,300 and government increased 5,500, according to Department of Labor and Employment spokesman Bill Thoennes. The largest private sector job gains were in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and education and health services. There were no significant year-over-year declines.

Year-over-year, the unemployment rate declined to 6.0 from 6.9 percent in April 2013. The number of Coloradans participating in the labor force increased 43,300, total employment increased 67,400, and the number of unemployed decreased 24,100. The national unemployment rate declined from 7.5 percent in April 2013 to 6.3 percent in April 2014.

One reason unemployment in Colorado Springs tends to be higher than in the balance of the state is because of the military, Greenwood said. The soldier is employed, but his or her spouse may not be able to find work.

“Also, we haven’t been impacted by the oil and gas boom like the Denver area,” Greenwood said. 

The oil and gas boom affects categories beyond drilling, she said, citing environment- and law-related jobs, and more.

“They have a big sector that really is influenced by what’s going on in the oil and gas industry,” Greenwood said.

She added that El Paso County’s workforce also is not as well-educated as Denver’s.