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Colorado’s unemployment rate continued to bob around the mid 3% range, landing at 3.5% for November, according to the latest job data. That’s down one-tenth of a percentage point from October, but up one-tenth from September. 

This vibrating rate, however, has little to do with how many people filed for unemployment. It’s more about how many more joined or dropped out of the state’s labor force. Last month, 4,700 people left the workforce, possibly due to retirement, sickness or just quitting or stopping the job hunt. And that affected the state’s state’s proudest indicator of a strong workforce — the labor force participation rate, which dropped to 69.2%. This means 69.2% of Colorado’s working age adults were working or looking for work.

The changes aren’t much of an economic concern yet, said Ryan Gedney, principal economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. 

“While the participation rate has dropped from its recent peak of 69.6% in August, it still exceeds the January 2020 pre-pandemic rate of 68.6%,” Gedney said. “The November rate of 69.2% ranked as the second highest nationally, trailing only Nebraska’s.”

Nebraska’s rate, by the way, was 69.8%, down from its January 2020 rate of 70.2%. The U.S. rate was 62.1% in November, also down compared with 63.4% in pre-pandemic January 2020.

Colorado’s job market has continued to show strength despite higher inflation, talk of recession and the recent spate of layoffs in the tech and real estate sector. And numbers that showed weakness — the leisure and hospitality industry lost 2,600 jobs in November — could be explained. The data was collected Nov. 12, before the ski season was in gear, Gedney said.

“While there were some ski areas open by Nov. 12, I’d say the majority were opening the week following,” he said. “We may not pick up the beginning of seasonal employment until December estimates.”

Arapahoe Basin opened its new Lenawee Express chairlift by Leitner Poma on Friday, Dec. 16 after a delayed installation. The resort used helicopters to set towers after the mountain opened for skiing. (Courtesy Arapahoe Basin)

There are still two job openings for every unemployed worker in Colorado, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But at least one local economist pointed out that this could change next year because of the Federal Reserve’s method of taming inflation. The Fed has hiked up interest rates all year, including raising it half of a percentage point on Wednesday to 4.25% and 4.5%, the highest level in 15 years.

“If a Federal Reserve-induced recession occurs in Colorado, and the unemployment rate reacts as it has in past recessions, then based on the recent increase in the Fed funds rate, the unemployment rate could increase by 5.9 percentage points and there could be up to 171,000 job losses,” said Steven L. Byers, senior economist at conservative think tank The Common Sense Institute in Greenwood Village, in a new report.

In other words, he added, Colorado unemployment rates could go to 9.4% next year.

➔ More Colorado unemployment rates*: November vs. October 2022

  • Boulder, 2.6%, down from 2.8%
  • Colorado Springs, 3.6%, down from 3.8%
  • Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, 3.6%, up from 3.5%
  • Fort Collins, 2.8%, down from 2.9%
  • Grand Junction, 3.6%, down from 3.8%
  • Greeley, 3.5%, down from 3.7%
  • Pueblo, 5.1%, down from 5.5%

*Not seasonally adjusted


Speaking of inflation…

It was a busy week for economic news. The Denver area’s inflation rate was up again, to 6.9% in October and November. That means average consumer prices were 6.9% more than they were a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report. 

The rate has been falling since hitting a high of 9.1% in March. That shows signs that the inflation is cooling, or at least people are getting used to higher prices or have adjusted their everyday purchases.

The biggest changes for the Denver area from a year ago November?

  • Milk and other dairy products were up 15.1%
  • Nonalcoholic beverages prices were up 14.1%
  • Rent was up 12.9%
  • Household energy costs were up 11.8%
  • Gasoline was down 3.2%
  • Used cars and truck prices were down 1.3%

➔ Colorado marijuana has never been cheaper, reports KDVR. That’s based on the average market price for a pound of Colorado marijuana bud, now $658 a pound, based on state data, compared with $1,721 in January 2021. >> Story

➔ Gasoline prices are now lower than they were a year ago, the New York Times reported. >> Story 

➔ COLA pay raises for 2023: If your annual wages are based on cost of living adjustments, you’re in for a raise in 2023. Social Security recipients are getting an 8.7% bump in benefits, while minimum wage earners in Colorado and Denver will see a 9% raise to $13.68 and $17.29 an hour, respectively. >> Earlier story

Take this week’s poll:

Take this week’s poll: Are you getting a raise? https://cosun.co/COraises

Are there still good jobs in Colorado?

About three dozen readers responded to the latest What’s Working survey: Are there still good jobs in Colorado? A solid third said yes. About half responded with yes or maybe, but the jobs pay low or employers didn’t respond. Only 12% said no. 

Getting past this casual, hardly scientific poll, though, it probably comes down to: What do you consider a good job? A few older respondents said employers weren’t paying for experience. Another handful said degrees don’t matter and employers want experience.

Go figure.

It just depends on who is asked. Mike Carr, who is based in Boulder and works as an enterprise account executive for tech-services firm PagerDuty in San Francisco, responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” His definition? “Good jobs because the company pays well, has awesome employee benefits, and nearly all jobs can be performed from anywhere,” he said.

On the company’s job site, no specific salary (ahem) is mentioned for a similar sales executive opening but it’s “competitive” and offers “generous paid vacation time,” plus there are perks like Dutonian Wellness Days and HibernationDuty, which allow for additional days off each month and year to unplug and recharge.

The pandemic and move to remote work has changed the office space. Commercial real estate agency CBBE has enacted a largely hybrid model of in-person and remote work since mid-2020. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Carr moved to Colorado in 2016 and ended up driving for Uber until he could land a sales job. That changed after the pandemic. After getting laid off from a struggling startup earlier this year, he started looking for a new job and received three offers in a few weeks. 

“Not a single one of them were HQ’d here, but they were all hiring for a position that was based in Colorado to serve the Central U.S. market,” he said in an email. “In my experience, remote work really opened the floodgates to more good jobs in Colorado.”

He also gave props to Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which requires companies to share the pay in job openings that are available to Coloradans. That made “it easier for me to filter out jobs that weren’t aligned with my experience, judging from the pay band,” he said.

Another reader touted his employer DispatchHealth, a Denver-based company growing like bonkers probably because it offers the service of sending health care providers to a patient’s house. Last month, it raised $259 million in equity and debt financing bringing its total funding raised to $400 million. 

“There’s a provider shortage and unprecedented burnout nationwide,” Suzi Dexter, the company’s senior director of talent acquisition, said in an email. “The nature of our model of care, going into the home, is reportedly more rewarding for clinicians.”

In fact, it must be so nice to work there that most of the jobs are filled. The company has 200 job openings, including 30 in Colorado. But there are no immediate needs for nurse practitioners or physician assistants.

“But I’d like to add, we are always looking for great talent in all areas to help us achieve our mission, including direct patient care, technology and non-clinical roles,” she said.  

There are 10 to 15 medical technician positions available in Denver right now, she said. According to the job description, those roles pay $19 to $22 an hour plus a $500 bonus. 

>> Jobs: DispatchHealth, PagerDuty

Regardless of whether the jobs are “good” or not, there are a lot of openings in Colorado, though fewer than a few months ago.

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics seasonally adjusted data estimated that Colorado had about 217,000 job openings in October, down 2,000 from September and flat from a year ago. This was part of the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Economists prefer to look at the job opening rates in order to see how a state did compared to the rest. Colorado was among 32 states with little change. Fifteen others saw declines while three had higher rates.

The JOLTS report relies on a random sample of what’s going on with 20,700 businesses and government establishments nationwide. It doesn’t count internal job movement, temporary openings or jobs that won’t start within 30 days, according to the BLS technical note

It does align with the state’s job board at ConnectingColorado.com, where employers can post openings for free. On Friday, there were 101,684 openings, compared with 113,708 in early November. In October 2021, there were 97,645, according to What’s Working’s tracking of the job board. 


Other working bits

➔ Unemployment update: There’s still a wait. Most of the 19,873 new claims for unemployment benefits have been waiting between six and 10 weeks to be processed. About 18%, or 3,500 people, have waited 13 to 16 weeks, according to the state’s labor department. There’s not much of an update from last week’s story. But Phillip Spesshardt, director of the Division of Unemployment Insurance said Friday that they are seeing “a consistent reduction in this backlog week over week.” The agency is also interviewing for 20 more staff members for its claims processing, he added. >> Earlier story

➔ Zivaro expanding to Colorado Springs: Aerospace firm Zivaro picked Colorado Springs after being approved for state and local incentives contingent on meeting hiring goals, according to the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The company plans to bring 304 jobs averaging $165,075 a year to the community. It chose the city over Huntsville, Alabama, and Omaha, Nebraska. Incentives include the job growth tax credit from the state, which could be up to $8.7 million over eight years, plus a $57,500 performance-based incentive. Additional incentives from the city of Colorado Springs were not announced. >> KRDO

➔ Quitting back to normal in Colorado: Coloradans quit their jobs less in October than past months and last year. In other words, said Gedney, with the state’s labor department, “the quit rate has more or less returned to pre-pandemic rates.” More people than usual quit their jobs last year leading to what was dubbed the Great Resignation. But quitting often meant people found better jobs. Quit rates are getting closer to the 2.65% average before 2020, with 2.5% of Coloradans quitting their jobs in October. Between May 2021 and April 2022, Gedney said, it averaged 3.29%, “the highest 12-month average for the state in the history of the series, going back to December 2000.” >> JOLTS data

➔ $1 billion loans in Colorado: The U.S. Small Business Administration said it approved $989.4 million in loans to 1,527 small businesses in Colorado. The average loan was $682,624. Denver County businesses received the most, at 193 loans for $141 million. Jefferson County had the second highest, at 156 loans approved for $120 million. Mesa County received 28 loans for $25 million total. >> SBA Colorado


I’ll be taking next week off so please, everyone, have a happy holiday. As always, share your two cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at cosun.co/heyww. ~ tamara 


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What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column about surviving in today’s economy. Email tamara@coloradosun.com with stories, tips or questions. Read the archive, ask a question at cosun.co/heyww and don’t miss the next one by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww

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. Contact her at cosun.com/heyww,...