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Economist: Colorado Springs job numbers back to pre-recession levels

By Wayne Heilman; by WAYNE HEILMAN wayneh@gazette.com -
Proquest LLC

The Colorado Springs area economy appears to have recovered all of the payroll jobs lost during the recession, according to new calculations released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment's top economist.

Local payrolls totaled 262,400 in April, matching the previous peak reached in September 2007, according to Alexandra Hall, the department's chief economist. But it will be March 2015 before the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms her numbers, as part of an annual process that replaces estimates from monthly surveys of a small group of employers with data from unemployment insurance reports that most employers submit quarterly.

"The numbers for Colorado Springs have been revised more upward than down, and the revisions I expect are the largest of any metropolitan area in the state on a percentage basis," Hall said during a conference call Wednesday with reporters.

Most of the area's job gains came in the professional and technical services, retail and construction industries, which contributed more than 70 percent of the nearly 5,200 jobs added between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the final quarter of last year.

The local economy took longer to recover than the rest of the state. Colorado hit its pre-recession peak payroll employment level in May 2008, exceeded that total in April 2013 and is now 81,100 jobs above the May 2008 total, according to revisions Hall expectis in the state numbers for April.

Every metropolitan area in the state has exceeded its pre- recession peak except Grand Junction, though revisions she expects in payroll numbers for the Pueblo area will put that area back below its pre-recession peak.

Hall's calculations come from data released Wednesday that covers the final three months of 2013. She expects the data to also trigger an upward revision in last year's payroll growth rate for the area to 2.2 percent from 2 percent. For the state, she anticipates the annual revision to show that the payroll grew 3 percent instead of the 2.9 percent rate the bureau reported in March.

The bureau's April payroll data for the Springs area shows job growth of just 1.3 percent. But Hall expects that rate to be revised upward to 2.3 percent as part of the annual process. She also expects statewide payroll growth for April to be revised upward.

The area's unemployment rate, released Wednesday by the bureau, fell to 7.4 percent in April from 7.6 percent in March, resuming a steady decline after increasing in March during the previous month for the first time in 4? years. The decline came as 845 more area residents were employed in April over the previous month, while the number of unemployed fell by 469 and the labor force expanded by 376. The local jobless rate is down from 8.1 percent in April 2013.

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Unemployment rates fell in April from March in all of the state's metropolitan areas with Boulder the lowest at 4.7 percent and Pueblo the highest at 8.8 percent. The local unemployment rate remains the second highest among the seven metro areas and more than a full percentage point higher than both the state and national rates.

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Copyright:(c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
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