Colorado Springs unemployment rate declines even as labor force surges

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FILE – This April 22, 2014, file photo shows an employment application form on a table during a job fair at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

By: Wayne Heilman April 4, 2018

The Colorado Springs area job market continued to heat up in February with the the addition of 3,600 people to the labor force, the biggest one-month gain in more than 19 years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.

Even with that major influx into the labor force, the February jobless rate edged down to 3.4 percent, from 3.5 percent in January. That’s because even as the labor force grew, the number of people with jobs increased even faster. It was the second straight monthly decline in the unemployment rate after four months of increases.

“This is good news. The labor force has been growing at an accelerating rate since March 2015,” said Tom Binnings, senior partner of Summit Economics LLC, a local economic research and consulting firm. “The same thing is happening to a lesser extent nationally, likely because a combination of wage gains and job opportunities are pulling people into the labor force. I believe that includes both millennials who have been in school and are now getting jobs as well as baby boomers who either retired and didn’t like it, or couldn’t afford to stay retired.”

Payrolls – measured by a survey of employers, rather than the survey of households that produces the unemployment rate – grew 2.3 percent in February from February 2017. Gains were seen in nearly every sector of the economy, led by the tourism and restaurant industry adding 1,900 jobs and the government sector adding 1,200 jobs, Overall, 7,400 jobs were added in the area during the 12-month period.

The information sector was the only major sector of the local labor market in February to shed jobs from a year earlier – just 100 fewer.

“Without the growth we have been seeing in the labor force, businesses would not be able to expand,” said Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum. “We are still riding the wave of people who have been lured back into the labor force, and they are finding jobs.”

Unemployment rates also fell in Colorado’s six other metropolitan areas with Fort Collins the lowest at 2.4 percent and Pueblo the highest at 4.3 percent. Colorado’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in February at 3 percent for a sixth consecutive month despite continuing expansion of the state’s labor force.