Colorado’s Unemployment Rate Went Down — Again

November 19, 2019

The unemployment rate in Colorado is down again this month to a record low of 2.6 percent, continuing a trend of decreasing rates since February.

"I didn't think it could get much tighter than this, but here we are," said Andrew Friedson, a University of Colorado Denver economist. "Colorado continues to be hotter than the U.S. economy in general."

October tied for the lowest rate since the Department of Labor began collecting unemployment data in this way in 1976.

The national unemployment rate is 3.6 percent. Colorado also showed faster job growth than the national average in October.

Gov. Jared Polis told Colorado Matters that the growth is no mistake.

"Our efforts on economic development have been very attractive. What we find is that companies from both coasts appreciate the positive business environment in Colorado, the great quality of life and honestly, they're facing similar difficulties on both coasts with regards to attracting the people they need," Polis said.

That's good for workers, according to state economist Ryan Gedney. With so few people looking for work, employers have to offer more to lure applicants. That also means firms have had a hard time hiring enough workers.

Colorado has more open jobs than unemployed people to fill them.

"Sometimes they take longer to fill or they just have to make do with the staff they have," Gedney said.

The main drivers of this growth are professional and business services jobs. That includes accountants, doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects.

Since last October, the state's labor force grew by 36,000. Around 30,000 of those represent people moving from unemployment to employment, Friedson said.

According to Colorado Department of Labor surveys, 85 percent of adults ages 25 to 54 are employed. That's the highest its been since the late 1990s. That number shows recovery for "prime-age workers" since the recession, Gedney said.

"I hesitate to say it could go much lower," he said. "This seems to be the floor of where the unemployment rate goes in the state ... plus or minus a few tenths of a percentage point."

During the economic expansion of the late 90s, the rate reached a valley of 2.7 percent.

This phase of economic expansion has been the longest in U.S. history, according to Gedney.

Average wages also ticked up by about a dollar over the last year to $30.58 an hour.