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Colorado unemployment rate falls to 3.6% in April; state job growth continues

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Posted at 5:24 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 19:24:12-04

DENVER – Colorado’s unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in April, and the state is seeing among its highest employment-to-population and labor force participation rates seen in a decade, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

April's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.6% was one-tenth of a percentage point less than the 3.7% rate it was in March, and it was again the lowest rate since February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic started.

April’s rate of 3.6% also matched the U.S. rate for April – the first time since October 2021 the two rates have been the same. The recovery from the COVID-onset recession and the peak unemployment rate of 11.8% in May 2020 to April’s rate of 3.6% in 23 months was far faster than the 58 months int took in the Great Recession.

According to CDLE Principal Economist Ryan Gedney, the number of unemployed Coloradans dropped by 1,800 people from March to April, for a total of 116,700. In February 2020, when the unemployment rate was 2.8%, there were about 86,000 unemployed Coloradans.

Though there were 30,000 fewer people unemployed at the time, Colorado’s employment-to-population rate rose again to 66.6% in April, the fifth highest in the nation, which exceeds February 2020 levels of 66.5% but is slightly below January 2020 levels of 66.7%, Gedney said.

The employment-to-population ratio measures the share of the state’s 16+ population that is employed. Gedney said the last time the employment-to-population ratio was at least 67% was in early 2009. The U.S. rate in April was “substantially” lower than Colorado’s, at 60%, according to Gedney. The number of people employed increased by 15,400 month-over-month.

Similarly, Colorado’s labor force participation rate moved to 69.1% in April, the third-highest nationally behind Nebraska and North Dakota. It was 68.9% in March. The last time it was 69% in Colorado was in early 2012, Gedney said. The U.S. rate was 62% in April, below the pre-pandemic rate of 63.4%.

Colorado has had the third-fastest recovery in the labor force participation rate since February 2020 among U.S. states, Gedney said.

Colorado’s labor force grew by another 13,600 people from March to April – the fourth straight month the state has seen labor force gains of more than 10,000 people. The summer of 1994 was the last time the state experienced four straight labor force gains of at least 10,000 people, Gedney said.

Colorado’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in April was 3.1%. The counties with the highest unemployment rates in April were Huerfano (6.1%), Pueblo (5.1%), Fremont (4.8%), Las Animas (4.7%) and Rio Grande (4.5%).

Among the seven metro areas in Colorado, Pueblo had the highest rate. Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Greeley all had rates between 3.1% and 3.4%. And Boulder (2.4%) and Fort Collins (2.6%) had the lowest unemployment rates among the major metro areas.

Colorado has added back 403,500 of the nonfarm payroll jobs after the state lost 374,500 in March and April 2020, for a recovery rate of 107.7%.

The private sector has added back 407,600 private sector jobs out of 358,800 lost in the first two months of the pandemic, for a recovery rate of 113.6% in the private sector.

“Colorado’s strong economic growth proves that we are stronger and more resilient than ever,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “Our successful efforts to save people money on everyday items, cut property taxes for people and businesses, and help Coloradans hold on to more of their hard earned money will help further improve our economy and job growth.”