Colorado’s unemployment rate fell in October, even as some industries struggle to attract new workers

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A billboard advertising job openings at the local Denny’s in Cortez ion Monday, August 30, 2021.

New unemployment numbers out today from the federal government say Colorado’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in October. That’s down 0.2 percentage points from September

Labor officials said the number of people employed in Colorado grew by nearly 12,000 last month to more than 3 million people. Still, higher unemployment rates persist in places such as Pueblo (6.8 percent unemployed), Huerfano (6.1), Las Animas (5.5), Fremont (5.5) and Pitkin (5.4) counties. 

The national unemployment rate also declined by two-tenths of a percentage point in October to 4.6 percent. But, Colorado is outpacing the national average by how quickly it is adding people to its total available labor force — nearly 3.2 million people in the state.

Employers in the state added 10,600 non-farm jobs in the last month, and they revised the numbers for September: up to 9,700 from an anemic initial estimate of 5,100. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says Colorado has experienced a job recovery rate of 83.3 percent since the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exceeds the national rate of 81.2 percent.

Still, employers say they continue to have trouble finding workers across industries. In Colorado, a shortage of teachers and educational support staff continues to reverberate across the state, with some districts canceling some in-person classes for a time because of the shortage, and employees in other districts calling for pay bumps to help combat kitchen worker and bus driver shortages.

At the state level, Gov. Jared Polis signed an agreement this week with a union representing 31,000 state employees that will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour next year in a bid to fill open positions.