Updated: April 9, 2014 at 4:18 pm
The Colorado Springs area unemployment rate can't seem to shift out of neutral.
According to the latest data released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February's rate stayed at 7.5 percent for a third consecutive month, although payroll jobs grew moderately to a 5?-year high.
The February report did include a ray of hope: The number of people in the job market went up by nearly 700 from January the first increase since September, and all but 105 of them found work.
"This is a sign of encouragement," said Fred Crowley, senior economist for the Southern Colorado Economic Forum. "More people are entering the labor force because they are more optimistic about economic conditions and a great number of them are finding jobs. That reflects a local economy, that while still struggling, is heading in the right direction."
However, the number of people in the job market is still down 4,157 from February 2013. The 315,249 people either employed or looking for work in February 2013 was the most in more than four years. Nearly three-fourths of the people who left the job market since then were unemployed, which reduced the unemployment rate in the past year by 0.9 percentage points.
Payroll jobs in February grew 1.4 percent from a year earlier, up slightly from January's growth rate but only about two-thirds of the annual average for 2013. The 259,500 people employed in payroll jobs was the highest monthly total since May 2008, but still 2,900 below the September 2007 peak of 262,400. Three-fourths of the growth came in three industries, each of which added 1,100 jobs - finance, tourism and professional and business services. Government and information technology were the only sectors shedding jobs.
The jobless rate comes from a survey of residents, while the payroll numbers come from a survey of businesses.
February unemployment rates also remained unchanged across much of the state, with two exceptions. In Denver, the rate edged up 6 percent from 5.9 percent in January, and Greeley's rate fell to 6.2 percent from 6.3 percent in January.
Colorado's and the nation's unemployment rates both remained unchanged in February at 6.1 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively.
Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234
Facebook Wayne Heilman