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Report: Colorado Springs adds jobs, but many seem to be part-time

August 28, 2013 Updated: August 29, 2013 at 8:15 am
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photo - Young people line up for a youth job fair put on by the Pikes Peak Workforce Center Thursday, March 7, 2013, at the Doubletree Hotel. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Young people line up for a youth job fair put on by the Pikes Peak Workforce Center Thursday, March 7, 2013, at the Doubletree Hotel. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Colorado Springs is adding jobs at the fastest rate in years, but that hasn't pushed up wages, according to the latest numbers from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment..

The likely reason is that many of the new jobs are part-time positions, and it may be that more employers are going that route because it's a way for them to get around requirements in the Affordable Care Act, said Tom Binnings, a senior partner with Summit Economics LLC, a local economic research and consulting firm.

The law requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide workers with health insurance coverage starting in 2015 or pay a penalty.

Springs employers added nearly 6,000 jobs during the first quarter, a 2.5-percent growth rate compared to the same three-month period a year earlier, according to data the department released Wednesday. But the average weekly wage rose just $1, or 0.1 percent, during the same period to $858.

"We have the most robust job market we have seen in years, but the economy may not be as good as we would hope because a lot of the jobs seem to be part time," Binnings said. "It makes sense that employers are adding part-time workers instead of full-timers to avoid the federal (health insurance) mandate."

Combined with the latest unemployment and payroll data, which also were released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the numbers create a mixed picture of the local job market.

The federal agency reported that the unemployment rate for the Colorado Springs area in July was 8.4 percent, the same as June's figure and a reflection that more people are returning to the job market. The area's jobless rate was 9.3 percent a year ago with the number of unemployed falling by nearly 3,000.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also presented what appears to be a sliver of bad news in payroll growth, but the situation may be better than expected when the numbers are revised.

On Wednesday, the federal agency reported that local payroll growth slowed slightly in July from the same month a year ago to 1.4 percent, down from a 1.6-percent growth rate in June. Most of the jobs gains were in the tourism, health care, retailing and construction industries, with declines in the federal government, financial services, manufacturing and professional, scientific and technical services sectors.

But the job-growth numbers likely will be revised upward, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the state labor agency. The analysis indicates that area payrolls actually grew by 2.5 percent in July.

The analysis also indicates that statewide job growth is much stronger than what is reflected in the monthly federal report. The state says Colorado payrolls grew at a 3.5-percent rate in July, rather than the 2.7-percent rate reported by the federal agency.

The 3.5-percent rate would be the fastest job growth rate for the month of July since the technology industry collapse in 2000, said Alexandra Hall, the state labor department's chief economist. The stronger growth is coming from nearly every sector of the state's economy, except for tourism, she said.

The state's analysis also indicates that Colorado recovered the jobs it lost in the Great Recession in February, or three months sooner than data from the monthly surveys reflect.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman

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