Colorado employers hitting brakes on hiring, but June job gains held up

Monthly job gains in Colorado continue to slow from the blistering pace set earlier this year as inflationary pressures and the possibility of a recession weigh on the economy. But hiring is holding up, which helped the unemployment rate tick lower, from 3.5% in May to 3.4% in June.

Employers in the state added an estimated 4,500 nonfarm jobs between mid-May and mid-June, according to a monthly update from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. That count, if it sticks, isn’t too far off from the 4,900 jobs a month averaged before the pandemic, said Ryan Gedney, principal economist with the CDLE on a press call Friday morning.

“This continued job growth shows the resilience of Coloradans, given challenges such as rising prices, finding workers, and supply-chain disruptions. The strength of the state labor market can be seen in its widespread job growth, low unemployment rates, increased participation and wage growth,” said Broomfield economist Gary Horvath in an email.

Monthly counts for May, however, were revised sharply lower, from an original estimate of 5,400 jobs down to 2,900. Gedney said the biggest downward revisions came in construction, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

Professional and business services, and financial activities were the two weakest sectors in the June report, losing 1,800 and 1,900 jobs respectively.

“This is mostly explained by the drop in mortgage-related services as demand for loan originations has plummeted in the response to higher mortgage rates,” Steven Byers, a senior economist with the Common Sense Institute, said in a commentary about the losses in finance jobs.

The strongest monthly gains came in leisure and hospitality, with 2,300 jobs added, and in government, where 2,100 jobs were added.

Over the year, hiring has been robust, with 111,700 jobs added on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Even if hiring slows sharply or reverses in the second half of the year, the state should still end up with a respectable gain in 2022.

Over the past 26 months, back to when the pandemic started, the state has added 412,300 jobs compared to 375,000 jobs lost in March and April of 2020 when the economy shut down. The state’s job recovery rate of 110% is the 11th fastest in the nation and ahead of the 97.3% recovery rate nationally.

The report also showed that employers are responding to labor shortages and inflationary pressures with wage hikes. Year-over-year average hourly earnings rose from $31.60 to $34.21, an increase of 8.3%. That matches the annual pace of consumer inflation measured in May in metro Denver.

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