The Colorado Springs area unemployment rate increased from the previous month for the first time in nearly 3? years in March as job hunters flooded back into the labor force amid an improving local economy, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.
The area's jobless rate edged up to 7.6 percent last month from 7.5 percent in both January and February, the first such increase since the local unemployment jumped to 10 percent in November 2010 from 9.9 percent in the previous month, the federal agency said. The 7.6 percent rate matches December's revised unemployment rate and still was well below the March 2013 jobless rate of 8.2 percent.
The rise came as the labor force expanded by nearly 1,600 people, the biggest increase from the previous month in 11 years and the second consecutive monthly gain after the number of people employed or looking for jobs fell throughout 2013. More than three quarters of those entering the labor force in March found jobs, pushing total employment to a five-year high of 289,228. But the 340 people who couldn't find work were enough to push the unemployment rate slightly higher.
Fred Crowley, senior economist for the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, called the latest number "good news that reflects the beginnings of a stronger recovery. We are seeing job gains in higher-wage sectors that will accelerate local economic growth."
Payroll jobs in March grew 1.4 percent from a year earlier, up slightly from February's growth rate but only about two-thirds of the annual average for 2013. The 259,800 employed in payroll jobs last month was the highest monthly total since Mary 2008 but still down 2,500 from the September 2007 peak of 262,400. All but two sectors - government and information - added jobs from the same period a year ago with professional and business services and the tourism industry accounting for nearly half of the overall increase.
The jobless rate comes from a survey of residents, while the payroll numbers come from a survey of businesses. March unemployment rates remained unchanged across most of the state's metropolitan areas with two other exceptions - Greeley's jobless rate fell to 6 percent in March from 6.1 percent in February while Pueblo's rate rose to 9 percent from 8.9 percent during the same period. Colorado's unemployment rate also rose in March, to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent in February, while the national rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent.
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