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This was a rough week for some of the nation’s larger technology companies — or, should we say, their workers. Ride-sharing company Lyft said it’s cutting 13% of its staff, or another 700 jobs. Payment processor Stripe cut 14%, or 1,120 jobs. Amazon put a hold on hiring its corporate workforce. 

And then, of course, there’s Twitter. New owner Elon Musk began laying off 50% of Twitter’s 7,500 employees Friday as he sought to get the company to profitability. The aftermath isn’t clear, but Twitter became a force in Colorado in 2014 when it acquired Boulder social-data startup Gnip

Elaine Reddy, who worked at Gnip and Twitter during the acquisition and now handles communications at climate and sustainability consultant The AdHoc Group, shared her sympathy — and job possibilities (a thread): “Thinking about all of my former Gnip/Twitter co-workers and the absolute chaos this year has been + 2 years of a pandemic. Happy to help anyone who wants to make a move into climate tech.”

Should local and national Twitter employees be searching for a new job, Colorado’s professional community appears ready to welcome them. With an estimated 222,000 job openings in August, that’s up from a year-ago August though down from July, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Colorado had a 7.2% job opening rate, which is essentially the number of job openings compared to employment. We were in a four-way tie for eighth highest rate of job openings in the U.S.

While Colorado has had one of the faster pandemic job-recovery rates nationwide, that growth is slowing. That came up Friday at the online State Demography Summit, which also shared what else is slowing: Colorado’s population growth.

“In fact, the population gain in 2021 was the lowest since 1990,” said Nancy Gedeon, demographer at the State Demography Office. “We have been averaging almost 70,000 people additionally per year since 2011. And again, this year, from 2020 to 2021, it was about 30,000.”

The state demographer’s office calculated Colorado’s 2021 population on July 1, 2021, at 5,814,707, up 30,551 people in one year.

Growth slowed nationwide, down to a rate of 0.1%. Colorado’s 0.5% increase ranked it 11th in total population growth nationwide. As births fell and deaths increased in Colorado during that pivotal pandemic year, what really changed was the number of people coming and going. This net migration saw a loss of 15,477 Coloradans who just up and left, likely to western and neighboring states, especially Arizona, based on 2019 patterns. Most new migrants came from California, Texas and Illinois, Gedeon said.

But one interesting thing about the population change inside the state is where people moved. They left the Denver area. Western Slope communities as well as Front Range counties of Weld, Douglas, El Paso, Pueblo and Larimer saw population growth.

Colorado counties that saw their population grow in the pandemic between July 2020 to July 2021 are orange and red. The bluer the county, the higher the population decline, according to the State Demographer’s Office. (Screengrab)

“Seventy-four percent of the growth in this one year time period was in the Front Range counties. But over the past decade, 95% of the growth was in the Front Range counties, so definitely a slowing there,” Gedeon said. “Twenty-one counties had decreases in population, including three — Denver, Jefferson and Boulder — that had not had a decrease in their population for over 16 years.”

The Denver area has faced a higher cost of living as well as high housing prices, though Nathan Perry, an economist from Colorado Mesa University pointed out that “the Western Slope has not missed out on this horrific price increase trend,” he said during his overview of the economy in the western part of the state. 

According to Richard Wobbekind, senior economist and an associate dean at the University of Colorado, the state is still doing pretty well, at least compared to the rest of the nation. He said that jobwise, Colorado has 2.7% more jobs than it did at its previous peak. And he shared the state’s national rank for labor force participation (second), employment growth (16th) real GDP growth (seventh) and more:

Colorado ranks, more or less, in the top half of the nation in terms of economic strength. This ranking comes from Richard Wobbekind, associate dean and faculty director of the Business Research Division and at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“We’re not a top 10 state or top five state that we were before COVID but in many cases, we’re at the top 15 or 16 states or somewhere in that range. We’re still a very, very strong state overall,” Wobbekind said. “We’re a high-income state but we are also, as you know, a high-cost state so maybe that’s some of the offset.” 

➔ Speaking of wages … New York joined Colorado on Tuesday as a state that requires employers to post minimum and maximum wages in job postings. It’s been a rocky start, reports CNBC, as some companies post ranges of $2 million! If you recall, that’s a big no-no here in Colorado. >> CNBC

Take this week’s poll

Housing prices and interest rates

As expected, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates another three-quarters of a point to 3.9% on Wednesday. That impacts the money people borrow, be it for a mortgage, increasing credit card debt and other loans. It wasn’t a surprise. Mortgage rates, at 7.29% on Friday, were already above 7% last week in anticipation, according to Mortgage News Daily. 

A house in Park Hill Denver on sale on Aug. 7, 2022. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

The higher rates put a lull on the state’s housing market as real estate experts said higher interest rates have discouraged buyers. But, as Patty Silverstein, president and chief economist at Development Research Partners in Denver said during the Demography Summit, prices are still higher than a year ago. Metro areas like Denver and Boulder are among the nation’s most expensive places to buy a house.

“We are still seeing these rapid increases in prices, although a little bit of pullback. Sales activity is down by 17% right now in the metro Denver region,” Silverstein said. “But home prices are still growing around 13%.”

Just don’t call it a housing recession, she said.

“I know there have been folks out there who’ve said, ‘This is a housing recession and oh my goodness, all of these home prices are just plunging,’” she said. “In what reality did we think that a 23, 25% increase in home prices over the year was reasonable? Even a 12-to-13% type of increase that we are seeing is still not reasonable. I would suggest this is not necessarily a housing recession but rather a much-needed housing correction that is happening.”

Other working bits

➔ Inflation? What about corporate profits? The New York Times dove into how much the price for a bag of potato chips increased in a year ($1) compared to Pepsi’s profits (up 17%), or Chipotle Mexican Grill’s prices (up 15%) compared to its profits (up 26%). >> NY Times 

Workforce disability program expands: A pilot program to help workers with disabilities find a good job is expanding statewide. The Disability Program Navigators are available at workforce centers in Adams County, Denver, Jefferson, Weld counties and also Arapahoe/Douglas Works! >> Details

Prison job fairs: The Colorado Department of Corrections still needs help (see original story) and has a number of in-person job fairs this month, including Monday, Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Corrections Training Academy, located at  2945 U.S. 50 in Cañon City. On Nov. 9, a virtual job fair runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. >> Register 

➔ Best business noms: The Colorado office of the Small Business Administration is looking for nominations for small business person and exporter of the year. There are more categories and the submission deadline is Dec. 8. The head SBA office notes that Colorado has 690,000 small businesses.  >> Nominate someone

➔ Rent assistance ends soon: Federal money has paid more than $300 million in rent for more than 36,000 Colorado households (and their landlords). There’s still some money left but Colorado’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program will stop taking applications on Nov. 15. >> Read, apply

➔ Vote on Tuesday. The Colorado Sun has a voters guide if you need context: Voter Guide

As always, share your two cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at See you next week! ~ tamara 

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Tamara Chuang writes about Colorado business and the local economy for The Colorado Sun, which she cofounded in 2018 with a mission to make sure quality local journalism is a sustainable business. Her focus on the economy during the pandemic...