May 3, 2024 - News

Denver named national leader for living-wage jobs

A bar chart showing the U.S. metro areas with the highest and lowest True Rate of Unemployment in 2023. The measure shows the share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage).
Note: Share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage); Data: Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity; Chart: Axios Visuals

Denver is seeing low levels of unemployment — in stark contrast to areas with large numbers of low-wage jobs, such as El Paso, Texas; Fresno, California and New Orleans, new data first shared with Axios shows.

Why it matters: A strong labor market signals a healthy economy, spurring more consumer spending and less reliance on social welfare programs.

Zoom in: The unemployment rate in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro was 16% in 2023, well below the national rate of 23%, according to Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity's proprietary True Rate of Unemployment.

  • The region also ranked as the national leader for living-wage jobs.

Flashback: Denver leaders voted in 2019 to raise the city's minimum wage on an incremental basis. As of this year, it's now $18.29 and $15.27 for tipped food and beverage workers.

Yes, but: Denver's rising labor costs have caused some cash-strapped businesses to close their doors for good, particularly in the restaurant industry.

Zoom out: In several cities outside the Denver metro, unemployment figures hover closer to the national average. Rates were around 21% in Greeley and 25% in Colorado Springs.

  • Fort Collins, however, exceeded nationwide numbers at 30%.

How it works: LISEP's True Rate of Unemployment measures the proportion of workers looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage — and who are unable to find one.

What they're saying: "Local communities investing in infrastructure, housing, and future-oriented industries consistently outperform those more reliant on low-wage jobs," LISEP founder Gene Ludwig said in a statement.

The bottom line: There are plenty of good jobs in America — but they're not evenly distributed.

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