After two years of labor shortages, Colorado’s job market seems to be turning around, at least for some employers.
A new analysis by Aspen Tech Labs, an Aspen-based agency focused on recruitment, found that the number of job vacancies in Colorado dropped 8% during the second quarter. Openings were down by 9,700 in three months to 110,522 by the end of June. The state wasn’t a standout, though. Other states also saw declines. Colorado ranked 33rd highest.
Still, this reverses the trend Colorado saw in the past two years when employers were desperate for workers. Some complained of attracting zero candidates, others said new applicants were not showing up for interviews or even work if they were hired. (On the other hand, some workers were complaining about unlivable wages and the quality of job openings.)
“This is a more positive trend because employers have had a really tough time hiring workers and retaining workers, especially during and after COVID,” said Loren Furman, president of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, which commissioned the report. “I’m hoping the numbers are indicators that we’re seeing some improvements.”
As small businesses began recovering from pandemic disruptions in 2021, the large number of openings kept growing. Colorado ranked among the highest nationwide for available jobs outnumbering unemployed workers. The ratio’s been more than 2-to-1 since January 2022. In April, there were 2.7 openings per unemployed Coloradan, ranking the state the eighth highest, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Aspen’s report does align with other sources, including the state’s official job board at ConnectingColorado, where as of Friday, there were 91,955 open jobs. That’s an 8.5% drop from March 31 when there were 100,503 open jobs. The semi-monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover report only has data through April and while it shows a drop from a year ago, the change from March to April shows growth in job openings.
But it’s hard to conclude too much from one quarter’s worth of data, said Isabelle Woodrow, product manager at Aspen Tech, which tracks job openings for 130,000 employers worldwide. Likely, some employers found enough workers and are no longer hiring. Others may have downsized or pulled back business operations so they need less staff.
“It could be that we’re just finding equilibrium,” Woodrow said. “There’s still lots of jobs available and unemployment is still super low, although there are a bit less jobs available.”
But while openings are down, the reality is there’s still a labor shortage for many small businesses, said Tony Gagliardi, Colorado state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which advocates for small businesses.
NFIB’s latest analysis of jobs found that 42% of small business owners couldn’t fill openings, which was down 2 points from May. That’s higher than the 49-year historical average of 23% but lower than the record of 51% in May 2022.
“Many Colorado small businesses continue to search for employees to man the workstations,” Gagliardi said in a statement. “From increasing wages to enhancing benefits, including flexible work schedules, Colorado small-business owners should receive awards for their continued survival.”
Who stopped looking for work?
In Colorado, there are more adults in the labor force than ever before. That’s partly because the population has continued to grow, if barely, but it’s also because slightly more of the adult population works or is looking for a job. The state’s labor force participation rate was 68.7% in May, compared with 68.2% a decade ago. While that’s just a few tenths of a percent, the additional bodies translate to nearly a half-million more people, according to labor data.
But, of course, there’s still a number of adults age 16 and older in Colorado who aren’t part of the labor force. Many are likely retired. Others are staying home to take care of children or aging parents. Some may have a disability and had to stop working. Others just gave up on finding a job. They’re not counted in the labor force even if they are volunteers or keep the household running.
They are counted in the Current Population Survey from the U.S. Census. And in May, this group numbered 1.48 million. In 2013, this group numbered about 1.3 million. The survey counts up people based on different responses about their status: some want a job, some are available to work and others have searched for work in the past year but aren’t looking anymore.
Here’s the rundown of that data annually for the past five years. May 2023 was also included, although monthly data is measured differently than annual data (see the note in the charts):
➔ New unemployment claims: Meanwhile, the number of Coloradans filing for unemployment benefits has declined this year. Approximately 19,934 workers filed a continued claim for the week ended July 1, down 1,600 filers from a week earlier, and below the March 4 high of 27,914, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Weekly initial claims by those filing for the first time was 2,274 for the week ended July 8, up 548 from a week earlier. >> DOL weekly update
Share with us: What organizations help you?
At Civic Center park in Denver, as folks enjoy lunch via food trucks, the area is kept tidy partially thanks to unhoused people who are part of the Civic Center Works program. Up north in Commerce City, workers at Spring Back Colorado tear apart unwanted mattresses to recycle the materials. Employees include people dedicated to rebuilding their lives after drug addiction.
These nonprofits are on a mission to help the disadvantaged and disenfranchised get back on their feet. At the same time, they’re providing a service that may benefit those of us who don’t need the extra help — just someone to take an old TV off our hands.
Do you have a favorite organization that provides a useful service to you and your community? Where do you go when you need help? Share with us for a future story by emailing email@example.com.
Take the poll: Summer money
Post-pandemic price fluctuations means that some things still cost more, but other items cost less than last summer, such as gasoline, lumber and eggs. Are you getting around to that backyard project or traveling more this summer? Take the latest What’s Working poll at cosun.co/WWSummerMoney and share a comment to help us better understand what’s going on in Colorado.
Other working bits
➔ Housing market slows but prices still high. The Colorado Association of Realtors released its June numbers and there’s definitely a slow down. Fewer houses sold in the metro Denver region and the state. The price drop? Less so. “While a slowing market may appear concerning on the surface, it’s crucial to remember that the fast-paced, expensive conditions we’ve experienced over the past few years have been abnormal, and these changes are best characterized as a normalization of the market,” Douglas County-area Realtor Cooper Thayer said in a news release.
- In metro Denver, the number of houses sold fell 20.7% from a year ago to 3,914 while new listings fell 28.5%. Median sales prices fell just 2.4% to $630,000. It’s taking longer to sell a house, but 26 days now, compared with 12 last year, is not that slow. >> Denver report
- In Colorado, sold listings fell 20.8% to 6,786 houses, while new listings dropped 23.7% to 9,545. The median price fell just 1.1% to $583,125. >> Colorado report
➔ Denver rents up 2.9%, slower than nation’s. Economists from housing site Zillow call that rate “perfectly average rent growth.” The company-tracked Denver metro rents in June grew to $2,091 a month, up 2.9% from a year ago. In the U.S., rents grew 4.1% to $2,054. >> Zillow’s June rent report
➔ Venture investment in Colorado cut in half. The latest venture capital report from PitchBook shows that the amount of funding collected by Colorado companies dropped in the second quarter to $1.2 billion, compared with $2.3 billion a year ago. The number of recipients was also nearly cut in half — to 89 from 134. But the decline is being felt nationwide, PitchBook notes. “This shift in the landscape has impacted all sectors and stages of the venture ecosystem with deals, exits, and fundraising all well below the high-water marks set in the past few years,” said the PitchBook report, ending on a positive note: “Throughout history, market crunches have often paved the way for the emergence of industry titans.” >> Read report
➔ Colorado’s highs and lows for food. A flurry of curiously sourced reports landed recently in my inbox proclaiming such things as “Colorado residents rank first in list of states that love to dine-out,” and “The best and worst states for DoorDashers revealed” (Colorado was the third worst). A closer look revealed that dining out translated to Google searches for fast food restaurants per 100,000 residents. Colorado took the lead for its voluminous searches for Starbucks, McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Meanwhile, landing as the third worst state for DoorDash drivers, Colorado got dinged for high gas prices. The report, by High Rise Financial, didn’t mention when the data was pulled but Colorado tends to have some of the lowest gas prices in the nation, the measurement likely was done earlier this year when the Suncor refinery was down, pushing Denver-area gas prices much, much higher. >> ICYMI: “Colorado ends up on a lot of “best-of” lists”
Miss a column? Catch up:
- What’s Working: Inflation in rural Colorado is likely higher than it is in the Denver area
- What’s Working: What happened since Colorado invested in Colorado Springs as a cybersecurity hub
- What’s Working: Connecting Colorado’s latest economic reports on inflation, housing and jobs
- What’s Working: Colorado’s summer jobs are disappearing
- What’s Working: Where a company that develops cancer tests, other startups are finding funding in Colorado
What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column about surviving in today’s economy. Email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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