Colorado’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make much progress in March as the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.4%, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Friday.
The department revised February’s rate to 6.4% from the initially reported 6.6%. The state’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in March 2020, just as the pandemic was triggering widespread business restrictions. Colorado’s unemployment rate remains above the national rate of 6%.
Ryan Gedney, senior economist for the state labor department, said unemployment is falling more slowly than the rest of the nation because Colorado’s labor force is expanding the fastest of any state — 2.9% — during the past 12 months. He said that will become an advantage as pandemic-related restrictions are relaxed and more businesses resume normal operations.
“Once the economy opens, this growth (in the labor force) will be absorbed. That is positive news for Colorado because it gives the state additional capacity for growth,” Gedney said. “It puts us in a great spot for the rest of the year. I would expect strong growth in April (when that data is released May 21) with the decline in COVID cases, compared with December and January.”
Unemployment rates fell in most of the state’s metro areas, though those rates are not adjusted for seasonal changes like the statewide number. Denver’s rate was unchanged at 6.7%, while the Colorado Springs rate fell to 6.7% in March from 7% in February. Boulder had the lowest rate at 5.5% and Pueblo the highest at 8.7%. Washington County had the lowest rate among counties at 3.2% and Huerfano County had the highest at 9.8%.
The unemployment rate is based on a survey of households; a separate survey of businesses showed the state gained 6,600 jobs in March, half in the business and professional services sector and with smaller increases in trade, transportation and utilities; education and health services and other services. The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants and hotels, shed 1,100 jobs in March.
The department revised February’s job gains to 9,100 from 5,200. The state has regained nearly 230,000 of the more than 375,000 jobs lost between February and April 2020.