Defying the pandemic, Colorado sees an economic rebound
The state's economy continues to show substantial growth even as coronavirus cases hit 2021 highs and inequities persist.
Why it matters: The dichotomy — revealed Tuesday in two economic forecasts — is driving how Colorado leaders respond to the pandemic and decide to allocate billions in state and federal relief.
- Yes, but: The state's rebound would look even better without the surging Delta variant, said Luke Teater, an economist in the governor's office.
By the numbers: The latest outlooks show that Colorado regained 78% of the jobs lost and unemployment dipped below 6% in August — the first time since before the pandemic.
- Also for the first time, retail sales at restaurants, bars and hotels exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
- Total job openings surpassed the number of unemployed people, even though both figures are still elevated compared with historical levels.
- Colorado's revenue collections grew 10.7% in the fiscal year that ended June 30 and are expected to grow another 6.1% this year.
What they're saying: The economy continues "growing at a good clip," said Elizabeth Ramey, a legislative economist.
- Gov. Jared Polis celebrated the news, saying the latest forecast "shows Colorado is roaring back."
The other side: Not all is rosy.
The state's 5.9% unemployment rate remains higher than the national average of 5.2%, but that's not a statistically significant gap.
- Colorado is still down 82,400 jobs from pre-pandemic levels and the restaurant and hotel industry is missing 25,200 of those.
Moreover, the jobs recovery is far from even.
- The average unemployment rate for Black residents is 14.5%, exceeding 2020 and more than three times greater than 2019.
- Those with a high school diploma or less education are not seeing as many employment opportunities.
The bottom line: A year ago in September, economic forecasters raised red flags about the state's fiscal fate.
- Now the future looks brighter — and the state may be forced to cut taxes and issue taxpayer refunds.
Editor's note: The graphic in this story was updated to correct the unemployment rate for men in Colorado. It is 6.1%.
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