The Colorado Springs area job market continued to send mixed signals in October: The unemployment rate fell slightly for a third consecutive month, but local payrolls contracted for a fifth straight month, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Local unemployment fell to 9.2 percent last month from 9.3 percent in September, but remained slightly higher than the 9.1 percent rate in October 2011.
Since peaking at 9.7 percent in July, the area’s jobless rate has declined every month and is now the lowest since April.
The number of area residents working or actively looking for work during October remained virtually unchanged from September, declining by 54; meanwhile, the number of residents out of work and seeking jobs fell by 332 and the number with jobs increased by 278.
The unemployment rate data comes from a survey of households.
But local payroll data, which comes from a survey of employers, told a much more pessimistic story.
The number of people employed locally declined 1.8 percent in October from a year ago, which continued a trend that began in June.
The Springs area reported the nation’s second-biggest payroll drop, while payrolls expanded in more than three quarters of the nation’s 372 metropolitan areas.
The biggest job losses locally, compared with a year ago, were in the retail, professional and business services and tourism industries, more than offsetting smaller gains reported in the financial services, education and health care industries.
Still, the payroll numbers might not be painting an accurate picture of the local job market. A separate quarterly report, which is based on unemployment insurance filings by employers, shows local payroll growth slowing in the first half of the year, but not declining.
Officials from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment are aware of the discrepancy and expect to revise statewide payrolls upward, said Bill Thoennes, a department spokesman in Denver.
“Any sign of job growth is welcome,” said Fred Crowley, senior economist for the Southern Colorado Economic Forum. “The area still needs to add more high-paying jobs to accelerate the recovery.”
Unemployment rates also fell during October in five of the state’s six other metro areas; Grand Junction was the only exception with its jobless rate remaining unchanged from September at 8.9 percent.
Among the state’s metro areas last month, Boulder had the lowest unemployment rate at 6 percent and Pueblo had the highest rate at 10.6 percent.
The state’s and nation’s unemployment rate both were 7.9 percent in October. Nationally, jobless rates were down in 329, or nearly 90 percent of 372 metro areas.
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