Colorado’s unemployment rate drops to 2.6 percent, lowest in four decades

Author: Ernest Luning - April 21, 2017 - Updated: April 21, 2017

The American and Colorado flags fly at the state Capitol in Denver on a sunny day on March 9, 2017. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
The American and Colorado flags fly at the state Capitol in Denver on a sunny day on March 9, 2017. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.6 percent in March, making it the lowest in the country, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Friday. It was also the lowest rate the state has recorded since 1976, when officials started keeping track.

The rate dropped 0.3 percentage points from February’s 2.9 percent unemployment rate, reflecting 19,500 more Coloradans considering themselves employed, according to the department’s monthly survey of households.

The national unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in March, 0.2 percent lower than the month before, the U.S. Department of Labor said. Arkansas, Maine and Oregon also reported their lowest rates since 1976.

Gov. John Hickenlooper cheered the report but warned against resting on any laurels.

“Colorado’s economy is one of the strongest in the country and our recent unemployment figure highlights that,” he told The Colorado Statesman in a statement. “But we won’t be satisfied until all Coloradans can participate in that success. That is our focus: to promote a job-creating environment in all 64 counties.”

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, said she was “absolutely thrilled” at the news.

“This is so much more than a statistic — I’m celebrating all the families across Colorado who are enjoying greater economic security,” Duran said in a statement. “I’m proud to have played a role in years of workforce development and job creation legislation that has helped make this historic day possible.”

The state’s active labor force — people with jobs and those reporting they were unemployed — grew by 10,500 from February to 2,933,300.

According to a separate state survey of businesses, total nonfarm payroll jobs were constant from February to March, with private sector jobs increasing by 100 and government payrolls decreasing by 100.

The largest private sector job gains in the month were in leisure and hospitality, financial activities and education and health services. The biggest declines for the month were in construction and professional and business services, the department reported.

The state’s unemployment rate has dropped over the past year by 0.7 of a percentage point from 3.3 percent. The number of Coloradans participating in the labor face rose over the year by 59,200, while total employment increased 79,500 and the number of unemployed residents dropped 20,300.

The state plans to release numbers for April on May 19.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.