Colorado jobless rate at 4.5 percent |

Colorado jobless rate at 4.5 percent

Sandy Shore
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Colorado’s unemployment rate jumped four-tenths of a percentage point to 4.5 percent for December amid job losses in the ailing housing and finance industries.

It was the second consecutive month the rate has risen, Don Mares, executive director of the state labor department, said Friday.

It also marked the biggest cumulative two-month increase in six years, at 0.08 percent for November and December.

The results over the next two months will be a key indicator about whether the Colorado economy is headed into a recession, state labor economist Joe Winter said.

“This movement here is clearly in concert with what I’ve seen in the national numbers,” he said.

If a recession occurs, Winter said, he doesn’t believe it would be as severe as the one that hit Colorado hard in 2001 because the weaker spots appear to be related to a drop in consumer demand, instead of the business collapse that occurred when the high-tech bubble burst.

“It seems to be a different critter,” he said.

The Colorado jobless rate compared with 4.1 percent in November and 4 percent in December 2006. The national rate for December rose three-tenths of a percentage point to 5 percent.

Fifty-four of the 64 counties reported higher unemployment rates, with San Juan County posting the highest rate at 8.3 percent. The lowest rate was 2.2 percent in Rio Blanco County, where the oil and gas industry continues to boom.

Colorado’s nonagricultural work force totaled 2.34 million, up 5,500 from November after adjustments for seasonal factors, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s monthly report.

The construction industry took the hardest hit with 1,200 jobs lost, while the jobs in the financial activities sector dipped 100, based on seasonally adjusted figures.

The remaining nine industries reported increases, led by professional and business services; trade, transportation and utilities; and leisure and hospitality.

Colorado has fared better than much of the nation because the housing market woes have not been as severe in the state as elsewhere, economists have said. The University of Colorado Leeds School of Business has forecast a 1.9 percent increase in jobs this year while economist Tucker Hart Adams has forecast a 0.5 percent increase.

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