DENVER - The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says Colorado's unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest rate in five years.
The department said Tuesday that the 6.2 percent jobless rate for December is the lowest since it hit 6.1 percent in December 2008 and down from 6.5 percent in November. The state's jobless rate was 7.5 percent in December 2012.
The state added 55,300 payroll jobs during 2013, or a 2.4 percent growth rate from 2011. Based on quarterly reports from employers, that growth rate likely will be revised to nearly 3 percent when annual revisions are made in March. The state added 2,200 payroll jobs in December, with the largest month-over-month job gains in leisure and hospitality and professional and business services.
"All in all, 2013 was a good year for Colorado, and given the recent history of job declines, the state saw a healthy rate of growth (in jobs) last year," said Alexandra Hall, the department's chief economist.
Across the nation, unemployment rates fell in four-fifths of U.S. states in December and rose in just two, though most of the improvement stemmed from unemployed Americans giving up on their job searches.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that employers in 30 states added jobs, the fewest to report gains since August. Nineteen states reported job losses.
Nationwide, employers added just 74,000 jobs last month, the fewest in three years and much lower than the average of 214,000 in the previous four months. Economists attributed some of the slowdown to cold weather.
The national unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest in more than five years. But the decline occurred mostly because more people stopped looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching for jobs.
Rhode Island reported the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 9.1 percent. It has displaced Nevada, which had the highest rate for several years but is now second at 8.8 percent, followed by Illinois, at 8.6 percent.
North Dakota has the lowest rate, at 2.6 percent. The state is benefiting from an oil and gas drilling boom.