Colorado’s unemployment rate continued the downward trend it has been on for all of 2022, sliding a tenth of a percentage point to 3.3% in July, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Friday.

That’s the 13th consecutive month of flat or dropping unemployment levels in Colorado.

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in July, which matches its pre-pandemic level. Colorado’s lowest pre-pandemic level rate was 2.8%, set in February 2020 before the pandemic cratered the state’s economy and sent the unemployment rate soaring to 11.8% in May 2020.

Department senior economist Ryan Gedney predicted Friday the rate would continue to fall through 2022, perhaps below 3%.

“Our labor force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio are really at the highest rates we’ve seen in over a decade,” Gedney said in a press conference. “I think you’re going to see a fast absorption of workers from unemployed status to employed.”

State labor statistics show there were about 310,000 unemployed residents in July. When compared to the number of job openings, there’s about a half a person for every job opening, Gedney said.

“That’s very low,” he said. “That pretty much matches the ratio we saw in 2019, which was at the end of a very long economic expansion.”

Colorado's unemployment drops again, recovers all pandemic job losses

That means there’s a lot of competition for labor in Colorado.

“There’s a difficulty for employers to obtain workers, but also to retain them,” Gedney said.

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An estimated 2,200 nonfarm payroll jobs were added in July.

The number of Coloradoans with jobs increased by 5,700 in July to 3,142,800, which is 67.2 % of the state’s 16-years-or-older population. The state’s employment-to-population ratio has risen for seven months straight “and is at its highest level since January 2009, which was 67.3 percent,” according to a news release.

Since May 2020, Colorado’s private sector has grown by 417,800 jobs. Comparing that to the 358,800 jobs lost in the first months of the pandemic in 2020, that’s a job recovery rate of 116.4% — beating the U.S. job recovery rate of 103% in that time.

Gedney said the rate of new unemployment claims are “historically low” right now, and that even if employers are worried about a looming recession, they’re not showing it by laying off workers.

“You don’t want to be the employer who let staff go and find out ‘Oh, I’m in an even worse position,'” he said.

The average number of new claims over the last 13 weeks has been 2,291. For the same period in 2019, that was 1,587. During 2021, it was 3,877.

Continued claim averages over the last 13 weeks have been 16,685 • lower than the 2019 average of 17,202. During the same time in 2021, that weekly average was 36,866.

Some other factoids from the July report:

  • Colorado counties with the highest unemployment rates in July included Huerfano (6%), Pueblo (5.2%), Las Animas (4.9%) and Fremont (4.7%)
  • Fort Collins metropolitan area had the lowest rate of 2.9%, followed closely by Denver, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Greeley, which all had rates from 3.3% to 3.7%.
  • Colorado’s unemployment rank tied for 24th lowest in the nation, with Arizona, Arkansas and Tennessee. Minnesota had the lowest rate at 1.8%, while New Mexico and Alaska had the highest rates at 4.5%.

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City Editor

Dennis Huspeni is a 30-year newspaper journalist who is the City Editor and covers metro Denver business.