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Economy

What’s Working: Officials expect Colorado to have a full GDP recovery this year

Record number of new business filings, job growth and other factors fueling optimism, though admittedly, recovery is already uneven. Plus: Jobs with perks, remote work and more.

  • Credibility:

New economic data has economists concluding that Colorado is now in full recovery. 

New businesses? Filings made record gains in the first and second quarter this year, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Labor force participation rate? Colorado had the third-highest in the nation

And our productivity? The state’s Gross Domestic Product growth rate ranks fifth nationwide.

“Despite historic setbacks caused by the pandemic, the data … suggests that Colorado is on pace for a full recovery in GDP by the end of the year,” Secretary of State Jena Griswold said this week during her quarterly economic update (view the new report here). “Considering where we were only a year ago, Colorado’s economic resiliency has again proved remarkable.”

Griswold was joined by University of Colorado economist Richard Wobbekind, who shared his thoughts on how national trends impact local ones. The nation’s GDP grew 6.5% during the quarter to get America back to its previous peak, and that’s important because “the state recovery is going to be dependent on the national recovery continuing,” he said. But, he added, if coronavirus hadn’t happened, we’d been on track to be 2.7% higher.

With Colorado’s vaccination rate higher than the nation’s, “hopefully this puts us in a better position to be a leader in the recovery,” said Wobbekind, associate dean for business and government relations at CU’s Leeds School of Business. 

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold speaks to the state’s nine Democratic presidential electors before they cast votes for Joe Biden at the State Capitol on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, Pool)

In June, weekly wages were up 4.7% year over year, which points to a labor shortage. Wobbekind predicted that there will be a lot more hiring in the next few months as schools return to in-person learning and must hire enough staff to support day-to-day operations again. Last year, many schools didn’t get back to full staffing since they offered remote or hybrid learning, he said.

But the news wasn’t all positive. The coronavirus delta variant could slow things down. And already, the recovery has been uneven, especially for lower-income households and anyone who lost a job, business or home. Griswold and Wobbekind explained their concerns by sharing more data:

  • The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.2% in June from double-digits last year. But that’s still high for Colorado (it was 2.5% before COVID-19) and it’s higher than the nation’s current 5.4% in July.
  • Job growth is strong but not that strong. Griswold said Colorado is still below pre-pandemic job peaks, especially as mothers dropped out of the workforce because of the lack of available childcare. Caregiving and service industries are not back to normal
  • The high cost of housing was an issue before the pandemic. And now? “A minimum-wage worker, including many who were on the frontlines of the pandemic, must work 72 hours a week to afford a fair market one-bedroom apartment in Colorado,” Griswold said. To get that worker to a 40-hour work week means paying $22.18 an hour
  • There’s also the dreaded inflation, currently running at 5.4% nationally, Wobbekind added. And “supply-chain issues are persisting, home prices and rents continuing up again … (and) labor shortages leading to wage inflation,” he said

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Another unknown is how economists will measure productivity in a changing world of work. After months of letting employees work remotely, many businesses are already back in the office, with some allowing hybrid schedules.

How that continues to play out will impact the GDP and may require tweaking his existing methodology, Wobbekind said. 

“That’s a key element of where you get GDP growth from, (it’s) from productivity enhancements,” he said. “We know that nationally, work-from-home numbers have been coming down but still, it’s going to be a different work environment than the one we had in February of 2020.”

Speaking of working remotely…

Over at ColoradoExcluded.com, the site tracking employers who exclude Coloradans from applying for their jobs, there are now 164 companies behind 445 job postings. 

For those just tuning in, Colorado passed a law that requires employers to share pay ranges in job postings in order to support a more equal wage between men and women (hence the name Equal Pay for Equal Work Act). Some out-of-state companies with remote jobs don’t want to do that so have added lines to their listings that read something like this: Remote work may not be performed in Colorado. (Read The Sun’s earlier coverage here.)

So, Aaron Batilo, a Commerce City software engineer, created the site to document the trend. It’s attracted a lot of national interest. The latest story mentioning Batilo’s site appeared last week in The Atlantic and was titled “Companies Want Remote Workers in All States but 1.”

“A weird side effect of the remote-work boom is that the state-led push for equal pay may soon rejigger corporate practices nationwide,” the author noted. “The same phenomenon has essentially played out with California and car-emissions standards: California’s rules have become the nation’s rules.”

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

IN THE WEEDS: The rule impacted all job postings unless the job was “performed entirely outside of Colorado.” By excluding Coloradans, companies could avoid posting salary ranges.

But the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment last month issued an “interpretive notice” to offer clarity. Interpretive Notice & Formal Opinion #9 essentially says compensation for jobs “performed entirely outside of Colorado” are exempt. But if it’s remote work that could be done in Colorado, companies must post the compensation. Here’s the language:

“(A) remote job posting, even if it states that the employer will not accept Colorado applicants, remains covered by the Act’s transparency requirements…” 

>> Read the revision

More bits:

  • The state’s job board has 107,064 jobs posted as of Friday. About 25% are “location-neutral” jobs offering remote options. >> JOBS
  • Colorado ranked 4th best state for remote work because it’s “healthy and welcoming,” even though costs are high. >> REPORT

Do you work from home or wish your employees would stop asking about it? Take our simple survey to help What’s Working track how work is changing. >> SURVEY 

FedEx ups its benefits

FedEx announced this week that it plans to hire for 80,000 positions nationwide, which includes 1,200 in Colorado, FedEx spokesman Ryan Chin said.

They obviously need drivers, an occupation that has seen an oft-reported shortage — including before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. But FedEx is getting hit on two sides. There aren’t enough drivers. And consumers who are now used to ordering online during COVID have created a huge demand for residential deliveries.

A FedEx worker shuffles cargo trailers on FedEx’s portion of DIA’s cargo ramp on July 3, 2019. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Finding workers of any kind is challenging, so FedEx made its jobs more attractive. 

“We recently implemented pay premium programs in some markets and made enhancements to (paid time off) and education reimbursement in select markets across the U.S,” Chin said in an email. “Also, depending on (the) operating company and location, other incentives such as referral and sign-on bonuses may be in place.” 

Bonuses do differ depending on where the job is located. 

There’s a $1,000 sign-on bonus to work at its Highlands Ranch store or at the Baseline Road store in Boulder. But there’s no mention of a similar bonus for the same retail job in Golden. All the jobs start at $14.77 an hour and top out at $20.34.

There are also some higher-paid positions, including an Ops Manager position in Broomfield, paying $21.10 to $35.35 an hour; couriers or drivers in Louisville who can handle a tractor trailer, with wages between $19.80 and $32.02 an hour; or a remote Customer Technology Advisor that pays $6,255.06 to $9,382.35 per month.

>> Search the jobs: careers.fedex.com

More bits:

→ Guild Education, the Denver company that helps employers offer education as an employee perk, signed up Target and its 340,000 workers. Bloomberg reports that the retailer pledged $200 million to pay for courses employees want to take to earn degrees, even a master’s degree. >> Bloomberg

→ Havenly CEO Lee Mayer tells The Wall Street Journal that her Denver online interior design firm may not be able to compete with Silicon Valley wages but it has the perk of Colorado’s outdoorsy lifestyle. That’s getting harder as West Coast firms let employees remotely work in Colorado. If work-from-home changes, this could be to Mayer’s advantage, though. She’s hoping to poach a senior employee at a San Francisco firm who is working from Denver and “and doesn’t want to leave if he is ever called back to headquarters.” >> Wall Street Journal

Outsiders think highly of Denver’s workforce: ThinkWhy, a Dallas firm that uses artificial intelligence to analyze the labor market, ranked the Denver-metro area fifth in its Top 10 Best Performing U.S. labor markets list thanks to its working-age population, the number of college graduates and level of wages. >> TOP 10

Unemployment beat

More folks who opted into Colorado Jumpstart, the state’s get-a-job incentive program, have been paid. 

According to state labor department data, 16,432 people have been paid $19.5 million as of Aug. 6. That’s a large jump since we last reported for the state’s program to encourage people to find a job and get up to a $1,600 bonus.

But I’m still hearing that some people have not been paid or are wondering if they’re even on the list. Are you one of them? Please share your details with me at tamara@coloradosun.com

So much for that trend. First-time jobless claims increased to 3,782 in the week ended July 31. That’s up 14% from the prior week, which the labor department touted as the lowest number of initial claims since the pandemic began. 

Four more weeks: If you’re wondering what’s going to happen to your unemployment check after Sept. 4, when Colorado ends its participation in the federal benefits, please read last week’s column.


→ Business owners: Help me out. Did you get your Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiven? Or are you curious who has been forgiven? Share your story or tips at tamara@coloradosun.com


What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column for readers navigating pandemic employment. Read the archive and don’t miss the next one. Get this free newsletter delivered to your inbox by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww.

MORE: Read stories on Colorado jobs and unemployment


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