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After several lackluster months, preliminary data shows that Colorado employers added more jobs in April than they have in the past 12 months. 

More than half of the 7,200 new jobs were in the leisure and hospitality industry, according to the Establishment Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job gains were offset by losses in industries like finance, which include banks and insurance, which shed 1,400 jobs last month. 

People stand outside of an entrance to Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, March 10, 2023. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, and the bailout of First Republic, was a jolt for small businesses of all stripes, spurring many to scrutinize their banking services and mull whether or not they should make changes to ensure their money is safe. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

But as with any preliminary data, revisions will likely be made as they have been already this year, Ryan Gedney, principal economist at the state Department of Labor and Employment, said during a news conference Friday. In March, the state said 4,700 jobs were lost. After revisions came in, the loss was just 1,700. 

Analyzing job data each month comes with caveats because it’s based on surveys and estimates. As more data comes in or is revised, that can adjust Colorado’s monthly job numbers up or down. Based on recent revisions, Colorado’s job growth was 0.8% since April 2022, lagging behind the U.S. job growth rate of 2.6%.  

Gedney said some of the decline may be due to data benchmarking issues that undercounted how many jobs Colorado added. But that impacts the job growth rate by only “five-tenths or six-tenths of a percentage point.” 

When the first-quarter revisions come in next week, economists will have a better idea of answering “is this an actual decline or is the Establishment Survey, because it’s survey based and are estimates, just kind of missing the mark,” said Gedney said, taking the wait and see if the state’s jobs really hit the wall.

Brian Lewandowski, an economist at University of Colorado, called the April jobs report “dismal,” but “consistent with the labor reports over the last several months — Colorado’s job growth is slowing.”

The numbers are tough to make sense of, he added. The state also reported a low April unemployment rate, at 2.8%, which was unchanged from March and near the all-time low of 2.4% just before the pandemic. More Coloradans are working or looking for work and there are still plenty of job openings. 

“However, Colorado’s year-over-year growth rate has been slower than the nation’s for the past 11 months,” he said in an email, sharing this chart that maps out where Colorado has ranked for job growth. A rank of 1 represents the fastest growth with 50, the slowest. Once in the top 10, Colorado’s job growth now ranks near the bottom:

The chart illustrates Colorado’s ranking among the 50 states for year-over-year job growth since 2009. A rank of 1 represents the fastest growth, a rank of 50 represents the slowest growth. “You can quickly see how unfamiliar the current relative employment trend is for Colorado. Since the financial crises (2007-2009), Colorado has grown accustomed to being a leading state for employment growth.” said Brian Lewandowski, an economist at University of Colorado. (Provided by Brian Lewandowski)

In his computer model, in which he added the potential undercounted jobs, there would just be a modest improvement, he said. Based on the state labor department’s expected revisions, Lewandowski said he added 17,000 additional jobs.

“We are still far from being a top 10 or top 20 state,” he said. “It would take an upward revision of about 49,000 jobs to put us back in the top 20 for the year-over-year pace of growth.”

Highlights from the April jobs report:

➔ The number of people employed grew, too. Colorado’s labor force grew by 7,500 people to 3,234,900 in April. Most, or 3,145,500, had a job. The rest were unemployed but looking for work. The state’s labor force participation rate was 68.6%, ranking fourth best in the nation.

➔ Colorado unemployment rate was 2.8%. Even though the number of unemployed Coloradans dropped 1,800 from March, rounding kept the jobless rate the same as March. >> Read up on how Colorado’s rate is calculated

➔ Pueblo had state’s highest jobless rate, at 3.5%. At least that’s true when looking at the seven metro regions, Gedney said. The area’s mix of industry, demographics and location contributes to its regular top rank. “Pueblo’s always had the highest. Boulder and Fort Collins are always the lowest and the other four (Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Greeley) are in the middle,” he said. San Miguel County had the state’s highest non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate at 5.1%, followed by Huerfano County, at 4.7% >> Unemployment by county

$25 an hour help wanted sign
With the labor shortage continuing in the Colorado high country, the Taste of Philly shop (in August 2022) on the Snowmass Mall is paying $25 an hour and offering cash. (David Krause, The Colorado Sun)

Earnings went up 4.6%, unless you adjust for inflation

Higher wages in Colorado may have something to do with slowing job growth in the state, as employers balance higher pay with fewer workers.

The BLS data shows that workers in Colorado are now earning an average $35.79 an hour, up 4.6% in a year. That’s also $2.43 more than the national average of $33.36.

But adjust for inflation — roughly 6.1% higher in the past 12 months — and Colorado wages dipped, seeing a decline of 1.5%, according to a data analysis by the state labor department. 

Colorado’s average hourly wages have grown annually since 2012 (blue bars) unless you adjust for inflation (orange bars). (Provided by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment)

Some additional comparisons in how pay has changed over the year in Colorado and the U.S.:

Who isn’t spending more?

What’s Working readers who took the recent reader poll weighed in with an overwhelming 81% saying they’re spent more this year than the same time last year. 

It was a bit of a trick question because prices are overall higher. Incomes are too, but not at the same rate. If you really did spend more, that would also mean you earned more. Likely though, that wasn’t the case. People just shifted what they spent from one thing to another.   

“Last year was home improvements, this year health issues,” shared one person.

“I’m definitely leaning into frugality,” said another. “I used to just purchase everything at the same store and now it’s a multiple trip event to save the most money.”

On the other hand, some people are actually better off than in past years. A cost of living increase for a Social Security recipient really helped their budget. “But gas and groceries ate most of it up.  Glad we own our home!”

“Going to more plays, concerts which means a ticket and generally dinner out,” shared Christine from Denver.

Thanks for sharing everyone!

Take the poll: What do you do?

Unemployment rates are low, job growth is slowing. What gives Colorado? Take this week’s reader poll and share your story:

More rentals offering perks to Denver renters

 “Lease today and get $500 off move-in costs!

1 month free!

Better yet, how about “2 MONTHS FREE!!

Listings for apartment rentals in the Denver area 

More of Zillow’s rental listings are offering concessions like a free month’s rent or parking or a break in move-in costs to attract tenants. Nationwide, 27% of rentals on Zillow have at least one concession, compared with 21% a year ago. 

For the metro Denver area, it’s 40.2% compared with 32.6% last year.

An apartment complex in Congress Park with units available for rent on June 11, 2022. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

According to Zillow, rents are 3.8% higher in Denver than April last year, which is more of a “normal pace” of rent growth compared to the double-digit rate of rent hikes in 2021 and 2022

“There has consistently been a higher share of rental listings on Zillow offering concessions in Denver than the country as a whole,” said Anusha Prakash, Zillow’s economic data analyst who wrote the concessions report. “Denver’s population is growing and while there are fewer vacancies compared to the rest of the country, this could simply be healthy competition between landlords or property managers. If the rental down the street is offering a concession, a landlord may decide to offer a concession on their unit so it’s not passed over by renters looking for a deal.”

Amazingly, Denver isn’t even in the top 5 markets for concessions. That would be Washington, D.C., with 48% of listings offering a concession. Neighbor Salt Lake City, with 44%, was fourth.

>> Zillow report

Other working bits

Fort Collins nixes minimum wage increase. City Council members voted 4-3 on Tuesday against raising the city’s minimum wage, reports The Coloradoan. The proposed increase would have taken it to either $16.65 or $17.29 an hour by 2026. Some in the business community were opposed because employers are still dealing with “the pandemic aftermath, rapidly rising wages and benefits,” the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce stated. Because it was rejected, the city’s minimum wage will remain the same as the state’s, at $13.65 an hour. >> Read

➔ Fee to start a business in Colorado going up. After keeping filing fees to $1 for folks wanting to start a new company in Colorado, the Secretary of State anticipates the cost will return to $50 by Monday. That’s because the Colorado Business Fee Relief Act and its $8.435 million in funding has been exhausted, or at least should be by the end of the weekend. The money was initially estimated to last until the end of June, but with a record year of Colorado startups, the money went fast. The $50 is the return to the rate of doing business pre-Relief Act. >> File

➔ FAMLI’s 50-cent buffer. As the Colorado Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program continues to get employers and workers to pay into future family leave, they offered a fix this week. Apparently, when employers typed in worker wage reports into the system, rounding to the nearest penny caused trouble. The state has now added a 50-cent buffer to account for any differences. That was the agency’s tip as it reminded everyone that the grace period for filing wage reports and paying the first premiums ends May 31. >> Read, more

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Thanks for sticking with me for this week’s report. As always, share your 2 cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at ~ tamara 

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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 Contact her at,...