Fri. May 27th, 2022


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Public sector hiring drives up Colorado job counts in July

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The pace of hiring in Colorado accelerated in July after slowing down in June, with the public sector leading the way. But the surge didn’t make much of a dent in the state’s unemployment rate, according to a monthly update from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The number of nonfarm jobs in the state rose by 14,800 between June and July on a seasonally adjusted basis, up from a revised gain of 10,000 jobs between May and June, according to a survey of employers.

Colorado’s unemployment rate fell from 6.2% in June to 6.1% in July, which tied with Mississippi to rank as the 36th lowest rate in the country, according to a separate survey of households.

Colorado’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly above the U.S. rate of 5.5%, although part of that gap reflects a greater willingness of residents in the state to participate in the labor force and seek a job, said Ryan Gedney, a senior labor economist with the department, during a news call Friday morning.

Public sector employers added 6,300 jobs between June and July on a seasonally adjusted basis, while professional and business services added 5,000 and leisure and hospitality added 4,300.

Gains everywhere else in the economy were fairly anemic last month, with sectors like manufacturing, financial services, mining, information and construction lagging, notes Broomfield economist Gary Horvath.

“The change in employment for the remaining sectors ranges from dismal to lackluster to moderate growth,” he said.

Construction sounded an especially dissonant tone in July, losing 1,600 jobs despite continued strong demand for new homes and apartments. Over the year, construction employment is down by 2,600 jobs, bucking the annual gains seen nationally.

Gedney said it isn’t clear if supply shortages have throttled the ability of contractors to take on projects or if workers are falling out because of retirements and career transitions, which is what happened after the Great Recession. It could also reflect some statistical and timing issues in the data.

Colorado’s economy has recaptured 290,400 of the 375,800 nonfarm payroll jobs lost in March and April of last year, a recovery rate of 77%, Gedney said.

So far, there are no indications rising cases of the delta variant are impacting hiring or resulting in more new claims for unemployment benefits. Last week, new unemployment claims hit their lowest level since the pandemic began in Colorado, Gedney said, although they continue to run at double the pace seen before the pandemic.

A clearer picture should emerge in next month’s report, although Colorado has fared better than most states in terms of being hit with higher COVID-19 case counts.

Gedney also provided estimates on the number of claimants facing a cutoff as federal unemployment programs come to an end early next month. Roughly 87,000 people who are on a program for the self-employed or who have exhausted regular state benefits and are receiving a federal extension will see payments terminate on the week ending Sept. 4.

About 116,000 Coloradans will no longer receive the extra $300 a week in unemployment support that the federal government has provided for most of 2021 that same week. That number includes the 87,000 claimants, plus those on the state program.

Additionally, there are 7,200 people whose state unemployment benefits are expiring and who won’t be able to roll over to extended federal benefits, Gedney said.

The department is trying to direct unemployed workers to consider the 122,000 opportunities listed on Connecting Colorado, the state’s job portal, as they face the end of federal benefits.

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