When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Kurt Moe, an independent computer programmer, saw his work prospects dry up.
The Longmont resident said he’s spent months searching for a new gig. He’s applied to more than 800 relevant jobs in his field and had only a handful of interviews.
“I have had a few informal phone interviews, but nothing has materialized yet,” emailed Moe, who is a little more hopeful about landing a new job now that he’s fully vaccinated. “I continue to log in to the ConnectingColorado.com website every day and I also wonder if some of these positions are real.”
The openings appear plentiful at Connecting Colorado, the state’s official job board. There was a surge of new postings in March, ballooning to about 92,000 jobs. It was down to 70,602 openings on Wednesday.
But even as Colorado’s unemployment rate has dropped to 6.6% from its 12.1% high in April 2020, and the number of people working or looking for work is nearly back to where it was before the pandemic, there are still nearly 280,000 Coloradans on unemployment. And that, plus the huge number of listings at Connecting Colorado, has job seekers questioning what work is really out there.
“I feel like I’ve lost a decade of progress in terms of being able to get back into a similar position to what I left simply because there aren’t a lot of those positions available,” said Elizabeth Barber, who is hoping to return to the outdoors industry where she has more than a decade of experience. “And by that, I mean full time with benefits and year round. I’m not even talking about a high level of pay.”
Many local openings aren’t even listed on the official state job board. But it’s part of the federal requirement that the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment must provide reemployment support to job seekers. Anyone on unemployment must register with Connecting Colorado.
Some Denver-area companies didn’t even know the job board existed.
Havenly, a fast-growing online interior design company in Denver with more than 60 openings, relies on recruiters for technical and senior-level roles. It uses a tracking system to place other openings on sites like LinkedIn.
Lee Meyer, Havenly’s CEO and cofounder, wasn’t familiar with the state’s job board, but she said the company already receives many applicants for its nontech roles. She called it “spray and pray,” as job seekers send their resume even if they have no qualifications or interest in design.
“Some of it is just people legitimately trying to get a job that’s maybe a little bit above their expertise, which is fine, too,” Meyer said, as she glanced at incoming applicants. Even jobs that in the past got little notice, like a senior accountant opening she had just posted, are drawing lots of applicants. “In just a few hours, we’ve gotten like 16, which is a lot more than we typically expect. We opened a brand-designer job and in two days, we have 106 applicants.”
Where the jobs come from
Connecting Colorado may not be well known to people outside of the unemployment system. But it’s a tool the state Department of Labor and Employment uses to encourage the unemployed to complete work-search requirements. While some frustrated users call it “useless” with the “same listings posted over and over,” the Connecting Colorado site is no ordinary job board.
It’s largely filled with jobs vetted by DirectEmployers Association, an Indianapolis nonprofit created 20 years ago to help 14 large employers recruit workers. Today, the organization, which replaced America’s Job Bank in 2007 as the job source for the nation’s workforce centers, counts 900 employer members nationwide.
Every job comes from an employer partner or a local workforce center. All posts link back to a company website or original source. DirectEmployers doesn’t scrape public job boards, third-party agencies or sites of employers outside its network.
That makes it an incomplete look at local job openings. It’s also clunky to use. Many of the job descriptions are a single solid paragraph of text. You must register with the site and you must be logged in to use it.
Home Depot recently announced it has more than 1,700 openings in its Denver-area stores. On the Connecting Colorado site, the job board found 113. Meanwhile, searching for “Amazon” turned up zero hits this week, even though the online retailer’s own page had more than 370 results for jobs in Colorado.
“I know that it is a goal of ConnectingColorado to work with all employers in the state to get that job content. That’s extremely important to them, which is one of the reasons why they work with us,” said Shannon Offord, DirectEmployers’ vice president of partnerships and strategic alliances. “I have people on my team where their sole job, like 95% of their job, is to go out and get content to push to the states.”
Offord later shared specific Amazon job IDs and in searching for those, Connecting Colorado did display those Amazon jobs. Connecting Colorado is more helpful when searching by type of job, industry or location.
And Home Depot said it has 2,280 job openings across its stores in Colorado. It also relies on its own system to attract candidates, which one can find out more by texting JOBS to 52270.
It’s unknown how many jobs aren’t part of the state’s official job board, but so far this year, the site has attracted 353,000 unique visitors, according to the Department of Labor.
Getting the word out to other employers is something states are trying to do, but Offord said some local employers, tech companies in particular, don’t feel it helps them to recruit highly skilled labor.
It’s also time consuming for employers to submit a job description since each job must be added manually. However, he said employers should consider it a complementary job board that reaches a large number of applicants. And any local employer can contact their area workforce center and have DirectEmployers scrape that employer’s site.
|Colorado’s local job boards|
|Can’t find what you need at ConnectingColorado.com? Try these job boards born and bred in Colorado:|
AIA Colorado (architectural jobs)
American Society of Landscape Architects (landscape architects)
Denver Egotist (creative jobs)
Lew’s List (finance, accounting jobs)
Luke’s Circle (non-tech jobs)
CoolWorks (outdoors jobs)
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Colorado Restaurant Association (restaurant industry jobs)
Colorado Judicial Branch (court/legal jobs)
Colorado Nonprofit Association (nonprofit jobs)
Have a suggestion? Share favorite sites for to search for a job — or a future employee — by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Work from home explodes
DirectEmployers is seeing a return to normal as far as new jobs. During the worst of COVID-19 uncertainty last spring, the number of jobs dropped to about 700,000 to 800,000. It’s now back up to pre-pandemic levels of about 2.6 million, he said.
In particular, the pandemic saw an increase in work-from-home jobs, which are categorized as “location neutral.” DirectEmployers offered these before the pandemic, but some states refused to list them because of the perception that work-from-home jobs were scammy.
“Some states have now embraced that because they see it as a way to get more of their workforce employed,” Offord said. The listings give job seekers, especially in remote towns, more access to work — and not just in the places they live.
The category has been included on Connecting Colorado since December 2019, when it was added to “support our future-of-work initiative, specifically helping communities whose core industries were in transition, such as coal-reliant communities,” Colorado Department of Labor and Employment deputy director Cher Haavind said.
Last month, nearly half the jobs on Connecting Colorado were location neutral. But that caused some duplications on the site, which is already clunky to browse.
For example, a new listing from Oracle for a remote “Content Designer” was posted on the state’s job board 116 times on March 18. After The Colorado Sun asked about the duplication, the state department of labor said that’s how the data comes in from DirectEmployers since the organization doesn’t reduce the same job posted in multiple states to one ID.
Haavind said they accept the jobs from DirectEmployers as they are because asking them to “create an algorithm to identify duplicate jobs, we add the risk of deleting viable positions,” she said.
And the two work together to improve the board.
“Since implementing location neutral jobs, DirectEmployers has been identifying ways to improve the presentation of jobs, and we are providing them with feedback to mitigate potential duplication of positions in the job feed used by Connecting Colorado.”
The job is no longer on Connecting Colorado.
Oracle said it still is looking to fill the job. “Oracle currently has one job opening for a Content Designer in Colorado and we continue to seek candidates for a wide range of positions across multiple lines of business in Colorado,” the company said in a written statement.
State job board doesn’t list all jobs
But DirectEmployers supplies only a portion of the openings on Connecting Colorado. The rest come from the state’s more than 50 workforce centers, which, by federal law, must post actual jobs, said Traci Marques with the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.
“There is extra verification that it is a true job and a true company to keep scammers out — because you do get those scammers, ‘Hey give me a Social Security number, your bank account number on your job application and we’ll get you going,’” Marques said. “That’s a red flag for us and we will not allow an employer to post.”
Pikes Peak is now getting about 125 to 150 new jobs a day from local employers, on par with the daily number before the pandemic began. Marques’ staff verifies that each job comes from a valid employer with an federal tax ID number. In the past six months, staff reviewed more than 10,600 jobs, while DirectEmployers provided another 25,493. But Marques said many jobs are not listed.
“Connecting Colorado does not have all the open positions that are available in the community,” she said. “But the great thing with Connecting Colorado is because we have to vet the companies and we have to vet the jobs, we know they’re legitimate jobs. If they were not legitimate jobs, by federal law we’re not allowed to advertise them.”
The Pikes Peak center takes the job search a step further. It worked with economist Tatiana Bailey, director of the Economic Forum in the College of Business at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, to create a site that helps job seekers understand where most of the jobs are — and what sort of skills are needed.
They built WAM, the Colorado Springs Workforce Asset Map, which shows how many jobs are available in the area for specific industries.
“The top 10 job openings are always the same. And that tells me that we’re not really training people for the jobs of today,” Bailey said. “An English degree is all fine and good, but you’re still going to work at Starbucks afterward. But let’s think about what are some other things out there that maybe you should get certified in. I mean you could do a six-month certification in Python and be making six figures.”
Registered nurses and software developers have for years been among the top openings among area employers. Both require extra training, but WAM also provides links to additional resources, not to mention the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, which offers free webinars, training programs and job fairs. The center also works with employers struggling to find applicants, by offering training to upskill existing workers or urging the company to consider workers from another industry with transferable skills instead of requiring degrees or certain past job titles.
“We’ve got income inequality that has just been exacerbated by COVID. We have a lot of people that have jobs with no benefits,” she said. “We’re not training people for those (better) jobs adequately. And you don’t have to go to Harvard for four years to get a good-paying job.”
Where are the tech jobs in Colorado?
Some Denver area technology companies didn’t know about Connecting Colorado, including Ibotta, the mobile app developer behind the popular cash-rebate app. The company, in a hiring frenzy for years, went from about 100 employees five years ago to 840 full-time and part-time employees today. It has more than 70 job openings posted on its site.
Recruiting tech workers has been such a challenge that Ibotta supported a Denver effort three years ago to place ads on San Francisco transit cars.
Ibotta switched gears in the pandemic and went to an all-remote workforce. It plans to keep it that way permanently for some tech workers who choose to live outside of metro Denver. The company also changed its recruitment strategy to focus on job boards that specialize in fully remote positions. It also uses local and national sites, like Built In Colorado and LinkedIn, said Marisa Daspit, Ibotta’s senior vice president of people.
“We have our own site, which anyone can scrape from,” Daspit said. “On the nontech side, we’re not as aggressive in our national recruiting efforts mostly because we still believe that we can build the majority of those divisions here in Colorado.”
The nontech roles tend to have more flexibility for entry-level workers and the company often works with local universities to fill those jobs.
“This kind of brings us full circle to the (Connecting Colorado) job board,” Daspit said. “Those are the types of positions that we would probably like to be able to post on site like this.”
Over at Havenly, the Denver online interior design firm, the pandemic has actually helped the company fill some senior-level jobs that Meyer, its CEO, previously called a “pain point.”
Not only did the firm add more flexibility so certain workers never have to stop by the office, but it found senior executives who fled the Bay Area to Colorado.
“At least for us, we’ve actually had a lot more success over the last year,” Meyer said. “We’ve hired two C-level executives since March of 2020.”
Havenly is constantly hiring, and Meyer said she plans to check out the Connecting Colorado job board.
Because as a venture-backed company that has 60 openings at its 90-person company, Havenly looks closer to home for nontech positions, from customer service to midlevel manager roles. Nontech jobs are some of the most difficult to fill right now.
“When you need to scale (and get to) 150 to 200 people, we’re looking for a lot of directors and managers and that’s absolutely challenging right now because that’s where you need a lot of numbers and you need really great people,” Meyer said. “And Denver is getting a little expensive for that caliber. An executive can afford to live here, but (for others), Denver is actually not as appealing a market as somewhere else.”