Colorado's private sector has recovered all of the jobs lost early in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Since May 2020, the state has added 370,000 private sector payroll jobs, compared to losses totaling 358,800 in March and April 2020 that were triggered by a stay-at-home state mandate, the agency reported.

Colorado appeared to still be a long way from recovering its pandemic job losses at the end of 2021, but an annual revision process added more than 28,000 jobs to December's total. During that process, the state substitutes more accurate numbers from quarterly reports most employers are required  to file for estimates made from monthly surveys. In January, private sector payroll jobs increased 6,300 and government added 400 jobs.

"The state did a good job of getting jobs back in leisure and hospitality — restaurants, hotels and the tourism industry — but strong growth in (the) professional and technical services and transportation, warehousing and delivery (sectors) also played a major role" in Colorado's recovery, said Ryan Gedney, a senior department economist. "If you add a higher employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rate (than the nation as a whole), all of that contributed to the recovery."

The number of people still looking for jobs is 46,388 higher than before the pandemic and the state's unemployment rate of 4.1% in January is still well above the pre-pandemic level of 2.8%. That's mostly because the state's pool of available workers has grown by nearly 70,000 during the pandemic. Gedney said Colorado's jobless rate isn't likely to fall below 3% for another year or two, depending on economic growth. The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households; the payroll numbers come from a survey of businesses that doesn't include self-employed persons.

"Although the job market has recovered faster than I anticipated, there is still a gap there. Unemployment is much higher among Blacks and Hispanics, and there are still sectors — government and the oil and gas industry — that have not fully recovered," Gedney said. "But a lot of money has been put into the economy (by the federal government) to stimulate a faster recovery," which has since paid dividends in the job market, he said.

Colorado's recovery from the pandemic is among the nation's fastest; the nation has recovered about 90% of the jobs lost during the first months of the pandemic. The state's jobs recovery was also quicker than during the Great Recession, when it took about five years to recover the lost jobs. 

Colorado Springs's recovery, meanwhile, has been ahead of the state's; the Springs recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic in August and in January was 6,400 jobs ahead of payroll levels in March 2020, or 113% of pre-pandemic payroll levels. That is just behind Grand Junction, which recovered its pandemic job losses in June and was 2,400 jobs ahead of pre-pandemic payroll levels in January, or 124%. Fort Collins recovered its payroll losses in December and Denver completed its recovery in January. Boulder is 1,800 jobs below its pre-pandemic levels, while Pueblo is 1,000 jobs down and Greeley is down by 6,300 jobs.

Colorado's unemployment rate in January edged down from December's 4.2% and was down from 6.2% in January 2021. The January rate is the lowest since February 2020, before the pandemic spread widely in the state. The state's jobless rate is adjusted for seasonal changes. Before seasonal adjustments, unemployment rates for the state and all seven of its metro areas increased, largely because retailers and others shed jobs in January after the holiday season.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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