Payroll growth in the Colorado Springs area surged to a nearly 19-year high in September as employers added nearly 14,000 jobs from a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.
The area’s near-record job growth of 4.8 percent was the highest percentage gain in a 12-month period since December 1999 and came as the unemployment rate edged lower to 4 percent from 4.1 percent in August. The payroll and unemployment rate come from two different surveys — payroll numbers are generated from a survey of employers while the unemployment rate is compiled from a survey of households.
Nearly two thirds of the job growth came from two sectors — the professional and business services sector that includes many defense contractors grew by more than 5,000 jobs, while the leisure and hospitality sector that includes restaurants and bars added 3,900 jobs. No sector shed jobs over the past 12 months, but employment in the information sector was flat compared with a year ago.
Ryan Gedney, senior economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said the numbers likely will be revised downward in March as part of an annual process that incorporates information from quarterly unemployment insurance reports most employers must file. He said local job growth this year likely will be similar to last year’s 2.4 percent.
The monthly numbers “most likely are overstating Colorado Springs job growth right now,” Gedney said. “Because there have been several large layoffs recently, I would expect growth in the Springs to slow a bit from last year but remain above 2 percent. This was a problem in 2014 and 2015 when the monthly numbers underestimated employment growth and were later revised upward.”
The area’s unemployment rate fell because the number of people who found jobs in September exceeded the number who entered the job market, reducing the number without jobs by 275. The jobless rate was 3.5 percent in September 2017. More than 12,000 people have entered or come back into the job market this year and more than 80 percent found work, according to the bureau’s data.
Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum, said the local economy is adding both entry-level and high-paying jobs, indicating “the economic status of a lot of people in Colorado Springs is being raised.”
Unemployment rates fell in all but two of the state’s seven metropolitan areas in September with Denver and Pueblo remaining unchanged. Fort Collins had the lowest rate at 2.9 percent, while Pueblo had the highest at 5 percent. Colorado’s jobless rate rose for a third consecutive month in September to 3.1 percent, the highest rate in nearly two years.