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Inflation may be up 7.7% nationwide from a year ago but a traditional Thanksgiving turkey feast? That’s up 20% since last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“The traditional 12-item Thanksgiving basket for 10 people this year, on the average in the U.S. was close to $64.05, which was up about 20% from last year. And last year was up 14% from the year before,” said Roger Cryan, the organization’s chief economist said during a news conference this week. “That kind of increase, we recognize it as a burden on some families. No question about it.”

Dave Ritchey’s photo of wild turkeys won a Best in Show competition sponsored by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. (Provided by the Colorado Department of Agriculture)

And guess what? It’s even more expensive to buy the same meal in Colorado than the U.S., according to the local farm bureau’s calculations.

Prices were collected before last-minute grocery store sales on turkeys, but paying more for a Thanksgiving meal is obviously not the only economic concern Coloradans have today. 


Higher unemployment?

The state labor department Friday announced that Colorado’s unemployment rate increased in October to 3.6%, from 3.4% in September. Two things were at play, said Ryan Gedney, senior economist with the state Department of Labor and Employment: 6,800 individuals joined the unemployed while the number of total employed declined by 4,900, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey data.

That’s still lower than the U.S. unemployment rate but barely — just one-tenth of a percentage point. 

Gedney wouldn’t attribute Colorado’s increase to the recent spate of layoffs at the large technology companies like Twitter, Facebook and Amazon — all with offices in Denver or Boulder. 

“While there is certainly a presence of those companies within Colorado, at this point it’s not clear if we might see the impacts in terms of layoffs,” he said. “Some of these companies may offer substantial severance packages and buyouts and these individuals may not either file for (unemployment benefit) claims or be unemployed. They also may have jobs, particularly in the tech sector that are in high demand and they may just transition to another employer.”

There were so many layoffs at Twitter after new owner Elon Musk took over that Musk was trying to get some workers to return this week, The New York Times reported. In Boulder, where Twitter has its main Colorado hub, the city’s mayor told 9News that 87 employees were laid off.

What the state’s job numbers show is the impact that higher mortgage rates are having on the real estate industry. In October, the finance and insurance industry was the only sector to lose jobs compared to last year, Gedney said. 

Some of the notable layoff notices this week included American Financing Corp., a mortgage company in Aurora. The company, which unexpectedly thrived during the pandemic to the point that it returned its federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, told the state Tuesday that it was permanently laying off 194 of its 305 employees.

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“AFC could not anticipate the speed or extent that its sales would decline in the second half of October and beginning of November. The economic downturn’s drastic effect on AFC’s sales was unforeseeable, creating significant losses,” the company said in its layoff notice to the state.

And depending on which BLS job data one looks at, there was some job growth, Gedney pointed out. The establishment survey, which surveys businesses, put Colorado in a much stronger economic place. Employers added 17,700 nonfarm payroll jobs in October, for a total of 2.9 million jobs in the state. 

The household survey, which polls individuals, said the number of individuals employed declined by 5,000 in October to 3.14 million. The number includes the self-employed and unemployed workers who are still looking for a job.

“It’s a huge divergence. I can’t explain it in terms of it making sense from an economic perspective. The two surveys are showing very different trends,” he said. “The establishment survey is larger, about seven times larger, so we typically rely on it for month-to-month movements.” 

Gedney added that the household survey has been underestimated all year so when revisions come out, the number of jobs could go up maybe 9,000 to 10,000 higher than it is now. 

“I would say employment is probably much stronger than what’s shown in the household survey,” he said. 

More from the Colorado employment report:

  • Pueblo had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 5.5% while Boulder had the lowest at 2.8%.
  • The number of jobs in government increased in October by 2,300 jobs, at least preliminary. That was one of two industry sectors that struggled to recover jobs lost from the start of the pandemic.
  • Colorado’s labor force participation rate dropped to 62.2% in October, down one-tenth of a percentage point from September. That dropped the state one spot to No. 3 nationwide for the highest participation rate, which measures how many Coloradans are working or looking for work compared to the population of people age 16 or older.

Average wages increased $2.58 from a year ago to $35.27 an hour in Colorado. That’s well above the U.S. average of $32.58.


ICYMI: More businesses starting up in Colorado

The quarterly report from the Secretary of State showed that there were 14.3% more first-time business filings during the third quarter — an unusual increase because third quarters tend to have a lull. 

The likely reason? The state dropped filing fees to $1, from $50, on July 1.  

➔ Read the story: Colorado sees big increase in new businesses after filing fees drop to $1


Talking turkey

If you thought 20% more for the Thanksgiving meal was bad, it’s even more expensive in Colorado — about 4.8% more than the national average or $67.14, according to estimates by the Colorado Farm Bureau. 

Colorado’s own Thanksgiving shopping survey was at nine locations around the state Oct. 18-31, before any big sales or markdowns for turkeys. So, the price could be lower today for all you procrastinators. There’s also been fewer large turkeys, which means consumers could spend less for a smaller turkey. 

The traditional 12-item Thanksgiving menu for 10 people in 2022 rose 20% from last year. The U.S. average price was $64.05, according to the American Farm Bureau. (Provided by National Turkey Federation)

For a family of 10, however, Colorado’s meal averages to $6.71 per person. 

Colorado Farm Bureau President Carlyle Currier, a rancher from Molina, said in a news release that this was the largest increase in the 37-year history of the survey. 

“The increases will certainly impact some family budgets, but at $6.71 per person, the meal is still a great value compared to other options,” he said.

What changed? The price of processed foods. Boxed stuffing is up 69% while whipped cream and frozen pie crusts are up 26%. Turkey, which makes up nearly half of the meal’s price, had a 20.7% increase. The farm bureau added an alternative meat: a 4-pound ham, which cost 7.1% more than a year ago at $11.64.

Meanwhile, the lone item that dropped in price? A 12-ounce bag of cranberries, down 14%. “So thanks to the cranberry growers,” the Farm Bureau’s Cryan said.

Colorado’s average prices for the 12-item Thanksgiving menu:

  • 16-pound turkey: $29.78
  • 14-ounce bag of cubed stuffing mix: $4.61
  • 2 frozen pie crusts: $4.05
  • Half pint of whipping cream: $2.10
  • 1 pound of frozen peas: $2.51
  • 1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.53
  • Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $4.13
  • 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $4.34
  • 1 gallon of whole milk: $3.67
  • 3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $5.03
  • 1-pound veggie tray (carrots and celery): 75 cents
  • 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.64

➔ Ham it up: Colorado’s signature Thanksgiving dish is a glazed ham, according to Usko Privacy, which provides tools for consumers to track their spending. And because it requires ingredients like Dijon mustard, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, the $27.30 item costs 9.05% more than it did last year. This comes from a survey of a mere 1,000 people nationwide (and FoodNetwork’s signature dish compilation), so take it with a grain of mustard. >> 50 signature dishes


I’m off for Thanksgiving so catch the next column in two weeks. If you haven’t already, share your job and inflation stories by taking one of the What’s Working polls:

As always, share your two cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at cosun.co/heyww. ~ tamara

This story was updated on Nov. 21, 2022 to correct new job data. The BLS establishment survey estimated that Colorado employers added 17,700 jobs in October for a total of 2.9 million jobs. The original figure of 5,600 jobs and 2.88 million total jobs was the revised figure for September.

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Tamara Chuang

Tamara writes about businesses, technology and the local economy for The Colorado Sun. She also writes the "What's Working" column, available as a free newsletter at coloradosun.com/getww....