Colorado’s Economy Is Better Than The National Figures, But The State Still Has A Long Recovery Ahead

Empty Restaurant Chairs On Tables
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An empty Tables Restaurant in Denver’s Park Hill n neighborhood Wednesday March 18, 2020.

The latest quarterly report released Wednesday shows that Colorado’s economy is doing better than the national average but it’s still not ideal. 

“While there are positive signs of recovery, the road is going to be long,” Secretary of State Jena Griswold said. 

Colorado lost 342,700 jobs from January to April 2020 but regained 126,000 in May and June. Nationally, 22.2 million jobs were lost during that same time period, and 7.9 million jobs came back in May and June.

Griswold said the jobs that came back are almost exclusively due to the reopening of retail, tourism and restaurants. Those industries were some of the worst-hit. The leisure and hospitality industry alone saw a 25.1 percent decline in employment. 

Richard Wobbekind, senior economist and associate dean of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, said this sector is one of the ones he’s most concerned with. 

“It’s one that seems to be quite honestly much more closely linked to the finding of a vaccine or other ways of controlling the coronavirus,” he said. “Nothing has gone unscathed, but some areas have really taken a big brunt.” 

Griswold said that she expects more jobs to return, but job growth will be slower than it was in May and June. Medical and hospital services showed one of the strongest returns after the shutdown and stay-at-home order, particularly in chiropractic and dental care. 

“They have been able to come back and reopen their businesses, even if it's on a more limited basis,” Wobbekind said. 

The pandemic increased Colorado’s unemployment to 12.2 percent in April but now sits at 10.5 percent. Griswold said things are moderately improving but this is still worse than the lowest point of the Great Recession.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in April, but as of June, it’s now at 11.1 percent. 

More than 104,000 Colorado businesses and nonprofits borrowed $10 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program. It’s projected to help retain 932,000 jobs in Colorado, though it's impossible to know for sure right now.

“While there are signs of recovery, there is no telling what the future will bring as long as the virus is not contained,” Griswold said.