Despite warning signs for the national and global economy, Colorado’s economy seems strong. The state added 7,200 jobs in July, lowering the unemployment rate to 2.9 percent. That’s the seventh-lowest in the U.S., according to the state labor department.
“For now, it looks like the Colorado economy is going to keep humming along,” said Andrew Friedson, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver.
No industry reported job losses in July, and the state also revised June’s job estimates up, from 8,100 to 8,500.
Average hourly earnings were up 5 percent in July, compared to the same time period last year, according to the state. Friedson described that as “a sign of an increasingly tight labor market.”
“Bargaining power is slowly shifting in favor of Colorado workers,” he said.
With a “super-low unemployment rate, you should see firms competing with wages,” said Brian Lewandowski, an economist at CU Boulder. He said the increase in the statewide minimum wage has helped to boost average hourly earning. Denver has also taken steps to raise minimum wages for city workers.
The job growth was strong throughout the state. Every metro area has added jobs. Grand Junction has added 4,428 jobs since the summer of 2017, after years of essentially no job growth coming out of the recession. Lewandowski said there’s a sense of momentum and optimism on the Western Slope, fueled by tourism and the relocation of top positions in the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction.
Still, Lewandowski said Colorado is not immune to the risks in the national economy, including a trade war and skittish bond markets. Surveys of business leaders in Colorado found increased pessimism, especially about the national economy.
In late 2018, researchers forecasted 53,200 new jobs in Colorado in 2019. Lewandowski revised his estimate for total 2019 job growth down slightly. The mid-year update now predicts 50,900 new jobs in 2019.