Colorado’s Economy Shows Few Signs of Slowing

Colorado’s unemployment rate dipped slightly in April to 3.4 percent. Employers added almost 10,000 jobs to the economy, according to the state Department of Labor & Employment.

The state’s unemployment rate has been below 4 percent since June 2015. The last time the labor market was that strong was the dot-com boom between the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

But don’t fret. There doesn’t appear to be a bust on the horizon this time.

Over the year, Colorado has added 49,100 nonfarm payroll jobs. March’s jobs numbers were even revised upward.

“Many sectors’ employers appear to be hungry for workers and wages are starting to rise as the labor market tightens,” said Andrew Friedson, an economist at the University of Colorado Denver.

Wages rose 5.4 percent in April compared to the same time last year, the strongest wage growth of any state.

In Colorado, low-paying leisure and hospitality jobs have grown as fast as high-paying professional jobs. These seemingly unrelated sectors actually feed off each other. The more highly educated professionals that move to Colorado to fill jobs, the more demand there is for restaurants, for instance, and the relatively low paying jobs that come with them grow.

There’s evidence that growth will continue. An analysis of state records by CU Boulder economists found new business filings are up 5 percent over the last 12 months. That’s 126,914 new business filings. There’s a strong relationship between new filings and future job growth.

“All of these things together signal a really strong labor market,” said Brian Lewandowski, an economist at CU Boulder. At the same time, he notes that Colorado job creation has cooled from its white-hot growth of the past few years.

If there’s any caution, it’s in the national and international economy. Business leaders in a separate CU Boulder April survey reported feeling good about the state economy, but more pessimistic about things nationally. A trade war with China, which is Colorado’s third largest trading partner, has rattled markets.