DENVER – Colorado has now recovered all the nonfarm payroll jobs lost in the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic as the state’s unemployment rate fell again in February, to 4%, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
The unemployment rate fell from a revised 4.2% in January to 4% in February, while the number of unemployed Coloradans fell by 5,500 people to 126,500, according to CDLE Principal Economist Ryan Gedney.
While the state has regained the jobs lost at the start of the pandemic, the number of unemployed Coloradans is still about 40,000 higher than then 86,000 who were unemployed in February 2020, when the state’s unemployment rate was at an all-time low of 2.8%.
That is due in part because of the number of people who have moved here over the past two years and those who have entered the labor market, the CDLE said. But the recovery rate amounts to about 102% of jobs lost at the start of the pandemic.
It took 22 months for Colorado’s unemployment rate to move from its pandemic recession peak of 11.8% to 4%. During the great recession it took 54 months for the state to move from the peak unemployment rate back to 4%, Gedney said.
The U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.8% in February, compared to 3.5% in February 2020. But Colorado’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was also 4%, lower than the national rate of 4.1% -- the third consecutive month that rate has been lower than the national rate.
Labor force participation reached 68.7% in February in Colorado – the third-highest rate nationally behind only Nebraska and North Dakota. That rate also exceeds the January and February 2020 rates of 68.6% and 68.4%, respectively, Gedney said.
The labor force grew in Colorado by 11,000 people in February, the second month in a row that it grew by more than 10,000 people.
And the number of people employed in Colorado increased by 17,100 in February, which represents about 66% of the state’s 16+ population.
In the state’s private sector, the job recovery rate is 106.8% since May 2020 – as the private sector grew by 383,300 jobs, compared to declines in the first part of 2020 of 358,800 jobs.
Forty-two Colorado counties had non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates under 4.1% in February. Huerfano (7.2%), Pueblo (6.1%), Fremont (5.8%), Rio Grande (5.6%) and Las Animas (5.5%) counties had the highest rates. Among the metro regions, Pueblo had the highest rate, at 6.1%, while Boulder (3.2%) and Fort Collins (3.5%) had the lowest rates. The Denver, Colorado Springs, Greeley, and Grand Junction regions all had rates between 4% and 4.4% in February, Gedney said.
The Greeley region is seeing the slowest job recovery rate among the major metro areas, at only 47%, which Gedney said was mostly caused by a continued drop in jobs in the mining and logging sector that covers oil and gas jobs.
Trade, transportation, and utilities saw about 4,300 job gains in the private sector in February, and professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and construction all gained more than 2,000 jobs in the month as well.
Over the past year, Colorado’s job growth rate is 5.1%, which outpaces the U.S. rate of 4.6%.