The Colorado Springs area unemployment rate last month jumped to 3.6 percent, the highest level since October 2016, as job seekers flocked into the local job market, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.
The July rate was up from 3.2 percent in June, the second consecutive monthly increase, as 2,751 area residents entered or reentered the area’s job market. Nearly half of the new labor force entrants found jobs, but the other half were still looking for work, pushing the number of unemployed to 12,802 — the highest monthly total since May 2016.
“The big increase in the labor force will take longer to absorb, but employers statewide are looking to hire people,” said Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum. “It is a good thing because employers are complaining that they can’t find enough qualified labor. The question is whether these new entrants are qualified for the jobs that are open.”
The area’s labor force has expanded by nearly 11,000 people since the end of last year and all but 642 have found work. The local unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.5 percent from September to February before declining to 3.1 percent in May as the area’s job growth surged to the highest levels since 2001. The area’s jobless rate was 3.3 percent in July 2017.
The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households. A separate survey of businesses showed the area’s job growth in July hit nearly 4 percent, when compared with a year ago, with a major share of the gains coming from the restaurant industry as well as the professional, technical and scientific services sector. The information sector was the only category to shed jobs during the past 12 months —just 100.
Unemployment rates rose in every metropolitan area in Colorado with the Springs and Pueblo areas posting the biggest monthly increases. Fort Collins had the state’s lowest jobless rate at 2.5 percent, while Pueblo had the highest at 4.5 percent. The statewide unemployment rate rose to 2.8 percent in July from 2.7 percent in June.
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