Monday, March 18, 2013

January Recovery Watch

Colorado unemployment rate drops for seventh straight month; state economy shows strength
The most recent economic data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show a decrease in the state unemployment rate from 7.5 percent in December 2012 to 7.3 percent in January 2013. That marks the lowest unemployment rate since February 2009 when the state’s unemployment rate was 7.2 percent. The decline in the state’s unemployment rate is a result of improvement in the labor market. In January, roughly 6,000 workers entered the labor force and, according to two separate surveys, the number of employed Coloradans increased as well. In light of these latest numbers, it appears that the economic recovery may be gaining momentum and that real improvement is underway across the state. The national unemployment rate decreased from 7.9 percent in January 2013 to 7.7 percent in February 2013. Also, enrollment in public assistance programs in Colorado increased during December as Medicaid, CHP+ and the SNAP program saw increases in enrollment.

The unemployment rate in Colorado decreased for the seventh consecutive month in January. The rate fell 0.2 percentage points, from 7.5 percent in December to 7.3 percent in January. (Figure 1) The rate is 0.8 percentage points lower than six months prior and is a full percentage point lower than January 2012. However, Colorado’s unemployment rate is still 3.2 percentage points higher than when the recession began in December 2007. Nationally, the unemployment rate declined from January to February moving from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent. The national unemployment rate of 7.7 percent in February is the lowest since December of 2008 when the rate was 7.3 percent.
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The January unemployment rate leaves Colorado in the middle of the pack with the 22nd highest (worst) unemployment rate among the 50 states. Meanwhile, in January, California had the highest (worst) unemployment rate at 9.8 percent and North Dakota had the lowest (best) at 3.3 percent.

The most recent economic forecast from the Colorado Legislative Council staff (LCS), released March 18, affirms the positive economic forecast for Colorado. According to the LCS, Colorado’s economic recovery has been one of the most vibrant in the country. LCS points to steady improvement in the real estate and labor markets as well growth in consumer spending as a few of the signs that a more mature recovery is taking hold in Colorado. Moving forward, LCS predicts lingering budget issues at the federal level could be a drag on the state’s economy over the next few months but, if that happens, the economy will return to more robust growth later in 2013 and beyond.

In the latest edition of Colorado Recovery Watch, Rice Fellow Andrew Ball examines a range of data showing where the state of Colorado stands on the road to economic recovery. 

Colorado Recovery Watch is a monthly snapshot of economic data, with a special focus on jobs and public-assistance programs. Read it online, along with other analysis of jobs and economic security from the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

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