Colorado's unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level in the 41 years of records kept by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and was the lowest in the nation at 2.6 percent, the federal agency reported Friday.
The jobless rate fell 0.3 percentage points from February even as 10,500 joined the labor force last month and is down from 3.3 percent in March 2016. The 75,689 people looking for work in Colorado during March were the fewest since April 2001 and was down nearly 11,000 from the February total.
"This shows that the Colorado economy is very strong right now," Ryan Gedney, an economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said Friday during a conference call. "Colorado's population is growing at twice the national average, so we are better off than other states are."
The unemployment rate for Colorado Springs, which is not seasonally adjusted, fell to 2.8 percent, the lowest since it sunk to 2.6 percent in December 2000. The seasonally adjusted rate, considered by economists to be a more reliable economic indicator, will be released by the bureau May 3. The state's jobless rate is adjusted for seasonal changes.
The new low for the state's unemployment rate came despite a separate survey of employers - the unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households - showing the state's payrolls in March were unchanged from February. That's because big declines in construction and business and professional services offset gains in tourism and health care. The monthly numbers are prone to major revisions - the February payroll number was revised upward to more than double the estimated job growth from January to 4,900. Payroll growth in the past 12 months remains strong at 49,100.
The March report from the bureau also showed the average workweek for all employees on private nonagricultural payrolls fell to 32.8 hours from 33.3 hours in February, while the average hourly wage rose 4 cents during the same period to $27.35.
Across the rest of the nation, both Maine and Oregon set new lows for unemployment since 1976 at 3 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. Hawaii had the next lowest jobless rate at 2.7 percent, followed by New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota, all at 2.8 percent. New Mexico had the highest rate at 6.7 percent, followed by Alaska at 6.4 percent, Alabama and Washington, D.C., at 5.8 percent and Lousiana at 5.7 percent. The nation's unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, a nearly 10-year low, in March. Unemployment rates fell from February in 16 other states and remained unchanged in 33 states.
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