A new report shows that Colorado’s economy continues to improve, political and business leaders say, even amid rising coronavirus cases, rising inflation and labor and supply chain challenges.
The state’s gross domestic product rate has returned to pre-recession levels, the unemployment rate has dropped and the labor force grew by 1.9%, Secretary of State Jena Griswold said during a call Thursday with reporters.
A new report released by Griswold’s office and the Leeds Business Research Division at the University of Colorado Boulder said the state added 102,100 jobs between September 2020 and September 2021 for a growth rate of 3.9%.
The state’s unemployment rate was 5.6% in September, down from 5.9% in August. During the pandemic-induced recession, the rate peaked at 12.1% in April 2020, according to the quarterly business and economic report.
“In my view, one of the most encouraging signs from the state level was the initial jobless claims. We’re down to just over 2,000 the week of Oct. 23rd,” said Rich Wobbekind, senior economist and faculty director at Leeds.
In 2019, before the pandemic, the initial jobless claims filed averaged 1,859 per week, Wobbekind added.
At the end of 2020, the number of claims filed for unemployment benefits shot past 40,000 in one week as the number of new COVID-19 cases surged, prompting restrictions on businesses.
Griswold called Colorado’s economic recovery a work in progress, noting that economic and social disparities that existed before the pandemic became worse during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Recovery has been uneven across industries, areas of the state and ethnic communities,” Griswold said. “Too many Coloradans are still struggling to afford housing, child care and health care and to pay monthly bills.”
Wobbekind referred to the “inflation specter on the horizon,” which could shake consumers’ confidence. Labor shortages and problems with the supply chain, which have held up getting parts to manufacturers and products to store shelves, worry businesses.
The 194,000 jobs added nationally in September was a disappointing number, Wobbekind said. But he said a private analysis released ahead of the upcoming U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report indicated the new numbers could be strong.
On the state level, new business filings totaled 38,211 in the third quarter, down 2.7% from the previous quarter. But the decrease followed “an incredible surge in Colorado and nationally” the previous six months, Wobbekind said.
Business renewals increased 4.7% in the third quarter with 162,260 filings.
And Colorado added 102,100 jobs between September 2020 and September 2021 for a 3.9% increase. Although the state’s unemployment rate remains above the U.S. seasonally adjusted national rate of 4.8%, Colorado’s labor force participation rate of 68.2% is the fourth-highest in the nation.
The labor force participation rate is calculated using the number of people employed or looking for a job divided by the working-age population. Wobbekind said the high rate is a good sign for long-term economic growth in the state.
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