Colorado employment returns nearly to pre-pandemic levels
Colorado’s economy needs to add 6,100 more jobs to return to the number of jobs seen just before the pandemic began, and that full recovery may have happened in February, according to a Monday update from the Department of Labor. and Colorado Employment.
The state lost 374,500 jobs between February and April 2020 as consumers and businesses retreated and state and local governments ordered shutdowns and other measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Between May 2020 and January this year, employers restored about 368,400 jobs, leaving another 6,100 to disappear, said Ryan Gedney, senior labor economist at CDLE.
State employers managed to add 6,700 net nonfarm jobs between December and January, and Gedney said it’s likely they added enough last month to close the remaining gap. Last month’s employment report will be released on March 25.
Colorado’s job recovery rate of 98.4% in January ranks 11th among states and ahead of the US job recovery rate of 86.9%. As for the private sector, the state’s job recovery is 103.1%, which tops the 89.8% recovery rate seen nationally, Gedney said.
Economists had predicted a slight slower job recoverybut annual revisions to jobs figures have revealed hiring was much more robust last year than originally expected, narrowing the recovery gap and putting most sectors past or near full recovery – with three exceptions.
Government employment levels are still down by 17,300, mainly due to losses in local education. The public sector continued to shed jobs on a net basis even after the economy opened up in May 2020. Leisure and hospitality suffered devastating layoffs as travel came to a halt and was more susceptible to different waves of variants and need to add another 16,900. jobs to get back together.
The largest percentage gap remains in the mining sector, which includes oil and gas production. It took a hit in early 2020 as commodity prices cracked. Employment in this relatively small sector is down by nearly 7,000, more than a quarter of pre-pandemic levels.
That explains why Metro Greeley, which includes Weld County, the state’s top oil-producing county, has only recovered 44% of the jobs lost during the pandemic. Grand Junction, on the other hand, leads the state with a job recovery rate of 124%, followed by Colorado Springs at 113%. Denver and Fort Collins are on the verge of a full recovery. And the 47 counties outside of a metropolitan area have a 101% recovery rate, Gedney said.
While job numbers are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, the state’s unemployment rate of 4.1% is higher than the 2.8% rate seen in February 2020. One of the reasons is the growth in the labor force over the past two years.
Colorado’s unemployment rate ranks 26th among states, tied with West Virginia and Maine, and it’s approaching the US unemployment rate, which was 4% in January. Another reason the state ranks higher on unemployment is because its population participates in the labor force at one of the highest rates in the nation, Gedney said.
Construction was the biggest gainer in January, adding 2,000 jobs. Professional and business services added 1,900 jobs; trade, transport and public services added 1,100 jobs; and manufacturing added 1,000 jobs.