Apr 3, 2024 - News

Colorado's employment numbers show warning signs

Change in U.S. unemployment rate, by state
Data: BLS; Note: Data for all states is preliminary; Map: Axios Visuals

Colorado's unemployment rate ticked upwards in February, above the national average, raising questions about the economy.

State of play: Employment in Colorado grew 2.5% in 2023 but growth is expected to decrease to 1.3% in 2024, part of a larger trend in the West, with the decline expected to continue through 2026.

  • Unemployment is projected at 3.7% for 2024, according to new numbers from nonpartisan legislative analysts.

Why it matters: Instead of the coast-to-coast job boom that shaped the pandemic recovery, the job market now looks more uneven, with parts of the country missing the plentiful opportunities available in other states.

What they're saying: "We actually don't have one labor market; we have a whole collection of labor markets," says Indeed economist Nick Bunker.

The big picture: Unemployment rates have risen in some of America's most populous and politically important states — a sign there are more pockets of weakness in the labor market than national figures suggest, Axios' Neil Irwin and Courtenay Brown report.

  • The unemployment rates in 28 states, including three of the six most populous, were higher in February than a year earlier by a statistically significant amount.
  • The highest-population state, California, now has the highest unemployment rate, at 5.3%. Nevada is close behind, at 5.2%.
  • Just three states had lower jobless rates at the end of that period, while unemployment held steady in the other states, according to federal data released Friday.

Zoom in: Colorado's labor market is hurting on both ends: The unemployment rate is rising even as the labor force is declining.

  • The state's unemployment is up from 3% a year ago.
  • The jobless situation is hitting Latino and Black residents the hardest, as well as those without a high school diploma, the latest numbers show.

Yes, but: Colorado has the fourth highest labor force participation rate at 68.1% in January, well above the 62.5% national rate.

  • Wages are rising and now exceed the rate of inflation.

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