Local unemployment hits 9.2 percent; highest point of the downturn

November 23, 2010

The Colorado Springs area unemployment rate ratcheted up again in October to 9.2 percent, marking the worst local rate since the recession began in 2008 and the highest seasonally adjusted rate since that record began being kept in 2000, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Tuesday.

October’s rate was up from 9 percent in September and from 8 percent in October of last year.

You may have to squint a little, but there is a silver lining to the ugly job figures, said Dave Bamberger, partner at Summit Economics in the Springs. The rate of job losses has slowed throughout the year and several economic indicators are looking up — the city’s sales tax collections have been up every month this year, foreclosures are down and the number of initial unemployment claims has dropped, Bamberger said.

“Some of the indicators are moving in the right direction for us,” he said. “The soft spot in the economic recovery is still the job situation.”

Local payrolls in October fell by a scant 100 jobs from September and were down 2,400 from October, 2009.

Michelle Graham, interim director of business and community initiatives for the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, said the view from the front lines is mixed.

On the plus side, she said, employers are looking for seasonal employment for the holidays — and some of those positions are apparently turning into more permanent positions — and many job-seekers seem to be looking more actively. On the down side, extended unemployment benefits will expire in December for millions of workers.

“We do anticipate that after the extended benefits run out in December that we will see an influx of people coming in here for work,” Graham said.

Statewide, the unemployment picture was similar to the scene in Colorado Springs: The unemployment rate in October rose 0.2 percent to 8.4 percent as more people were looking for work and fewer kept the jobs they had.

Donald J. Mares, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said there are hints of a turnaround.

“Despite mixed results in the employment numbers, there are encouraging signs of improvement, including recent increases in online job postings,” Mares said.

Nationally, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent in October.

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