Dec 1, 2021 - Business

Denver metro's "true" unemployment is much higher by one estimate

Data: Ludwig Institute; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Denver metro area's effective unemployment rate was much higher during the pandemic than reported, one new economic analysis shows.

  • The "true" number of people who were unemployed in 2020 hit 26.2%, considerably greater than the 7.5% rate posted in federal labor statistics, according to the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity.

What they did: The institute factors in not just people who are out of work and looking for jobs, but also those employed in positions earning less than a living wage, writes Axios Twin Cities' Nick Halter.

  • The livable salary threshold is $20,000 annually, according to the institute, a conservative estimate but above the $12,760 individual federal poverty level in 2020.

Why it matters: When we look at unemployment, we don't often think about people who are underemployed or who don't make a livable wage.

  • Denver ranked eighth among the 98 largest metro areas when it came to the increase in "true" unemployment from 2019 to 2020, the analysis found.

Zoom in: The unemployment rate jumps to 47.1% when you add 16 and 17 year olds and people working part time but trying to get full-time work — which the institute refers to as the "True Rate of Unemployment Out of Population."

  • In Colorado Springs, the analysis found "true" unemployment at 23.4%, well above the 7.3% reported. The TRUOOP number was 54%.

Of note: The picture for the second year of the pandemic is not yet known. The institute's data is from 2020 and this year's numbers won't be available until next fall.

Between the lines: The institute — led by former U.S. Comptroller Gene Ludwig — is focused on presenting alternative data points to highlight the plight of struggling Americans, according to its website.

  • Ryan Gedney, a senior economist at Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, declined to comment on the report.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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