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Colorado Springs area job growth slowed in 2016, but stayed well ahead of state

March 13, 2017 Updated: March 13, 2017 at 6:26 pm
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A rainbow hangs in the evening sky above downtown Colorado Springs Saturday, July 6, 2013. Light afternoon showers this week have given relief to lawns all over the Pikes Peak region. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Job growth in the Colorado Springs area slowed slightly in 2016, but remained well above the statewide average, according to revised payroll numbers released Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employers added nearly 8,000 jobs last year, a 2.9 percent growth rate from 2015, but that is still down from more than 8,500 jobs added and a 3.3 percent growth rate in 2015. Despite the decline, the area's job growth rate last year was well ahead of the 2.3 percent statewide average and second-fastest in the state behind Fort Collins.

"I'll take a 2.9 percent growth rate any day," said Tom Binnings, a senior partner with Summit Economics LLC, a local economic research and consulting firm. "That is almost twice the population growth rate. You can't really ask for anything better. It is a great growth rate. You might see a slight decline this year in the growth rate, but even if it slows a bit, it should still remain quite healthy."

The agency's revisions added nearly 0.8 percentage points, or more than a third higher, to the 2.2 percent it initially reported based on monthly surveys. The bureau has made major revisions to its estimates of local job growth every year since 2010.

The revised statistics replace estimates generated from monthly surveys of a small group of employers with data from unemployment insurance reports most employers are required to file quarterly. The employer reports for the fourth quarter won't be available until May 24 and were not included in Monday's revision. As a result, the 2016 job growth numbers could be revised again next year when the data from the fourth quarter is used in the 2017 annual revision.

That job growth continued into January with the area adding 8,600 jobs, compared with a year earlier, or a 3.1 percent growth rate. Nearly two-thirds of that growth came in the retailing, health care and leisure-hospitality sectors with each sector adding more than 1,500 jobs in the past 12 months.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that the area's unemployment rate remained unchanged in January at 3.3 percent, which along with December is the lowest monthly rate in nearly 16 years. The rate didn't change even though more than 3,500 area residents joined the job market in January with all but 91 finding jobs. The area's unemployment rate was 3.4 percent in January 2016. The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households, while the job growth numbers come from a separate survey of employers.

"This is another good sign for the local job market," said Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum. "Previously, we had a declining unemployment rate because people were dropping out of the labor force. Now we are absorbing new people and keeping the rate steady. This is great news, but eventually we will be in a labor shortage unless we are able to train people for the relevant jobs."

Unemployment rates across the state in January remained unchanged or increased slightly. Boulder's jobless rate was the lowest at 2.5 percent, while Grand Junction was the highest at 4.6 percent. The state's unemployment rate fell during the same period to 2.9 percent, the lowest level since 2.8 percent in February 2001 and down from 3 percent in December.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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