Colorado capped off 2015 with solid job gains and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. The state added 10,700 jobs in December, finishing the year with a historically low unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.
"The last time we had an unemployment rate lower than that was in May of 2001, when it was 3.3 percent," said Alexandra Hall, Chief Economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
Manufacturing, construction, and leisure and hospitality saw the largest job gains in December. Mining was the only sector to see jobs decline, both in the month and over the year. Other sectors of Colorado’s economy, Hall noted, are already starting to feel the effects of that decline.
"We've seen a decline in the growth rate in construction," Hall said. "Some of the construction projects were very mining-specific; those have gone away. Yet we're still seeing the construction sector continuing to grow – just at a slower rate."
Professional and business services – which often includes support activities around mining – has also seen slower gains, but still positive growth.
During 2015, Colorado added 56,600 jobs, for a growth rate of 2.3 percent, but Hall said they expect both those numbers to be revised upward when the labor department releases their benchmarked figures in March 2016. The final growth rate will likely come in at or near 3.0 percent.
"After the period of job loss we experienced during the Great Recession, we went through a number of years where we were growing between 1 and 2 percent," Hall said. "So a growth rate around 3 percent – especially given the population increases that are happening in Colorado – is just a nice, steady place to be."
Nationwide, the jobless rate held steady in December at 5 percent. Colorado’s unemployment rate is tied for the seventh-lowest in the U.S.