Unemployment

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At a recent job fair for prospective electricians in Northglenn, Colorado, one skilled out-of-state worker named Eduardo Havier was looking for a job.

“I’m from Puerto Rico, but I currently live in Louisiana. I came all the way here just to see what you guys had going on.”

Havier flew out from Louisiana for the day, just to attend the job fair. He’s 23 years old, and already has a degree in electrical engineering technology from a community college, but he can’t find employment where he lives.

“I spent so many years and effort trying to pass my classes, I want to work in the field I went to school for. The real situation is if you don’t know anybody at the workplace, you don’t get a job.”

courtesy Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

Halfway through the year, Colorado employment is holding steady.

According to state labor officials, Colorado added 5,000 jobs in June. The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7 percent.

"That recent increase is mainly due to people being drawn back into the labor force due to Colorado’s relatively healthy job growth," said Ryan Gedney, an economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

screencap courtesy Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

The economy is a top issue on voters' minds as the election approaches. In Colorado, voters might be faced with a ballot measure asking them whether or not to raise the state's current $8.31 hourly minimum wage.

First, Initiative 101 [.pdf] backers have to turn in enough signatures to get on the ballot. If they clear that hurdle, voters will decide whether or not they want to see the minimum wage rise to $9.30 per hour. With built-in annual increases, the state's minimum would eventually be $12.00 by 2020.

Kids Count Data Book 2016 / Annie E. Casey Foundation

Colorado consistently ranks at the top of national lists for livability, access to the great outdoors and for low adult obesity. But the Centennial State falls towards the middle in a national report by the Annie E. Casey foundation in taking care of its children. Taking into account data from all aspects of a child’s life, from education funding to health care coverage, Colorado ranks 20th, improving just one spot from 2015.

“That was largely driven by gains in economic well-being and the health of kids in our state,” said Colorado Children’s Coalition data analyst Sarah Barnes, whose organization works with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We saw our child poverty rate here in Colorado decline in 2014 for the second year in a row - that’s the first back to back decline that Colorado has seen in more than a decade.”

Jim Hill / KUNC

Colorado employment is off to a strong start in 2016. The state added 5,200 payroll jobs in January, and the unemployment rate dipped to 3.2 percent.

"It was 15 years ago that we saw unemployment numbers this low," said Alexandra Hall, Chief Economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

While those numbers are encouraging, economists are concerned about the impact of sustained low oil prices on jobs in the oil and gas industry.

F Delventhal / Creative Commons/Flickr

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.

CDLE

Colorado's economy is continuing its trend of slow but stable growth. Employers added 2,000 jobs in September, and Colorado's unemployment rate edged down 0.2 of a percentage point to 4.0 percent.

"We're continuing to see what I would call 'flat' conditions -- we've been in this 4 to 4.3 percent range all year long, which makes it feel like there isn't a lot going on," said Alexandra Hall, chief economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

photologue_np / Creative Commons/Flickr

Unemployment in Colorado decreased slightly in the final month of 2014, to its lowest level since before the onset of the Great Recession.

The state added 4,700 jobs in December – enough to shrink the unemployment rate to 4.0 percent. The last time the rate was that low was October 2007.

"That is somewhat remarkable," said the Department of Labor's Chief Economist Alexandra Hall. "We know we've been seeing an improving economy in Colorado for all of 2014, and we're continuing to hit milestones – good milestones – as the economy improves."

Colorado Dept. of Labor and Employment

As voters weigh economic issues ahead of the November election, Colorado’s job growth is continuing its steady upward trend. Economists with the Leeds School of Business at CU- Boulder say Colorado ranks fourth in the nation for employment growth.

The state added 14,600 jobs in September, marking the 35th consecutive month of job gains.

The U.S. unemployment rate has been falling steadily over the years. Down from the recession peak of 10 percent in 2009, it reached 5.9 percent in September.

That's getting close to what economists call the natural unemployment rate — the normal level of joblessness you'd expect in a healthy economy.

But a lot of economists are asking whether the old rules about full employment still apply.

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