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Colorado record-low unemployment rate in April again the nation's lowest

May 19, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 2:37 pm
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FILE - In this Wednesday, May 18, 2016, file photo, a woman passes a "We're Hiring!" sign while entering a clothing store in the Downtown Crossing of Boston. On Thursday, March 16, 2017, the Labor Department reports on job openings and labor turnover for January. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

Colorado's job market ranked in April as the nation's best for a second consecutive month with the lowest unemployment rate in the 41 years of records kept by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics at 2.3 percent.

The jobless rate fell from 2.6 percent in March, which was also the nation's lowest for that month and the previous lowest rate on record for the state. Colorado's unemployment rate was 3.3 percent a year earlier. The 68,344 Colorado residents looking for work in April was the fewest since February 2001 - since then 571,390 people have joined the state's job market.

A rate this low "makes it more difficult for businesses to fill openings, but we are having high population growth from people moving here," Ryan Gedney, a senior economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said Friday during a conference call with reporters. "I suspect this figure will be revised up. They (the bureau) are probably overestimating gains in the labor force, which are not reasonable based on historical data. But we are still in a very healthy economy."

Another indicator of the health of the state's job market - the percentage of unemployed that voluntary left their jobs - is at a 10-year high of 20 percent, or double the low reached during the recession, Gedney said.

The unemployment rate for the Colorado Springs area, which is not seasonally adjusted, fell to 2.5 percent, tied with October 2000 as the lowest in the 27 years for which the bureau has records. The seasonally adjusted rate for Colorado Springs will be released by the bureau May 31.

The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households. A separate survey of businesses shows the state's job growth is slowing with a small loss in March and a small gain in April, which Gedney attributes to the shrinking pool of available workers, which now is about equal to the 60,000 job openings in the state.

Much of the state's job growth in the past year, nearly 30 percent, has been in the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels, restaurants and bars, followed by the retail and transportation sector and the professional and business services sector. Together the three sectors account for 70 percent of the 45,700 additional jobs added in the past 12 months. Those three industries also are the biggest contributors to job growth during the past five years, accounting for more than half of the nearly 400,000 jobs added since April 2012.

"Colorado has a highly diverse economy with so many industries doing so well - other states might have three or four industries growing at a 4 percent annual rate, Colorado has 11 or 12," said Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum. "Any time the state's unemployment rate is at least 1 percentage point under the U.S. rate, people move here in droves."

The April report also showed the average work week for all employees on private nonagricultural payrolls increased to 33.6 hours from 33.2 hours in March, while the average hourly wage increased 30 cents to $27.72.

Across the nation, Arkansas and Oregon also set new lows with unemployment rates of 3.5 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively. Hawaii and North Dakota had the second-lowest unemployment rates at 2.7 percent, while New Mexico had the nation's highest jobless rate at 6.7 percent, followed by Alaska at 6.6 percent. The nation's unemployment rate fell in April to a nearly 16-year low of 4.4 percent. Jobless rates fell in nine other states, rose in Massachusetts and remained unchanged in 39 states.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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