CITY SKYLINE
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Colorado Springs city skyline May 19, 2005. Mark Reis photo

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Job growth in the Colorado Springs area slowed slightly for the second consecutive year, but it remained well above the state average and is the highest over the past three years since the late 1990s, say revised data released Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employers added more than 7,800 jobs last year, a 2.8 percent growth rate, down slightly from the nearly 8,200 jobs added in 2016, a 3 percent growth rate.

The area's 2017 growth rate was significantly ahead of the state's 2.2 percent average but just behind Fort Collins at 2.9 percent. Fueled by a booming energy industry, Greeley was one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the state, with 4.9 percent job growth last year.

The local job growth rate over the past three years - including a 3.4 percent rate in 2015 - shows the local economy compares with the area's booming job growth in 1998-2000. The area added nearly 25,000 jobs in 2015-17, or 9.5 percent over the three-year period, compared with nearly 26,000 jobs, or an 11.5 percent growth rate, for 1998-2000.

"That is impressive," said Tom Binnings, a senior partner in Summit Economics LLC, a local economic research and consulting firm. "Any growth faster than 2 percent, especially when it is greater than population growth, is still very good. It has also come with the Department of Defense operating under sequestration (automatic federal budget cuts)."

The agency's revisions added 1 percentage point to the 1.8 percent initially reported based on monthly surveys. The bureau has made major revisions to its estimates of local job growth every year since 2010. The revised statistics replace estimates generated from monthly surveys of a small group of employers with data from unemployment insurance reports that most employers must file quarterly. The employer reports for the fourth quarter won't be available until May 23 and were not part of Monday's revision, so the 2017 job growth numbers could be revised again next year.

The area's job growth continued into January, although at a slower rate - 2.1 percent. More than half of the 6,900 jobs added since January 2017 came in the health care, construction, retailing and restaurant industries, with each sector generating at least 800 jobs in 2017. Information was the only industry that lost jobs from a year earlier - 100.

The agency also reported that Colorado's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3 percent for a fifth consecutive month, tied with Maine and Idaho for the nation's seventh-lowest rate. The state's jobless rate last year averaged 2.8 percent, down from 3.3 percent in 2016 and the lowest annual average in records that the bureau began compiling in 1976. The percentage of Colorado residents employed or looking for a job increased to 68.1 percent last year from 67 percent in 2016, the largest such increase of any state, the agency said.

The bureau plans to release comparable unemployment rates - which are adjusted for seasonal changes - Friday for Colorado Springs and the rest of the state's metro areas.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

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