Despite a slight unemployment hike statewide, Garfield is still very low

Garfield County’s unemployment rate dropped to 928 people, or 2.8%, from 2.9% in July.

Cassandra Ballard
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Colorado Ranch House in downtown Glenwood Springs is currently looking to fill their staff much like many businesses across Garfield County.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Unemployment ticked up recently in Colorado, but Garfield County continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. 

“The rise in the unemployment rate was due to the gain in the labor force exceeding growth and total employment last month, but, given continued high demand for labor, those individuals that entered the labor force in August but were unable to find employment should be able to move into employment status relatively quickly,” said Ryan Gedney, data analyst for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

In August, Garfield County’s unemployment rate dropped to 928 people, or 2.8%, from 2.9% in July.

In August 2021, the unemployment rate in Garfield County was at 4.2% with 1,402 people on unemployment, and July of 2021 the rate was 4.5% with 1,488 people in Garfield County on unemployment. 

Some smaller rural areas are higher, like Pueblo with a 5.2% unemployment rate, or Mesa County at 3.7% unemployment rate. Other high-country counties with a strong tourism industry have even lower rates, such as Summit County at 2.1%.

“As you can see, in 2019, pre-pandemic, Garfield county had unemployment rates below 3%, much like it is now,” wrote Carolyn Tucker, the CDLE regional business services coordinator in an email. “So yes, we were experiencing a labor shortage in 2019 leading up to the pandemic.”

There are many factors to the low unemployment rate in Garfield County, especially after the pandemic, but a lot of these trends were moving in this direction before the pandemic, she added.

“There are a number of factors at work, but long-term national trends reflect a slowing of the birth rate and an increase in the death rate,” Tucker said. “Our workforce is aging. Add to that the increase in retirements — both expected and early retirements due to the pandemic, area growth and demand for services — and you’ve got a tough labor market with not enough people to fill jobs. These trends will continue into the future.”

Colorado’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate increased 1/10 of a percentage point in August to 3.4%, according to the updated report from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. 

Garfield County has rated lower than the state throughout the summer, with the state average at 3.4%, which grew from 3.3% in July. 

The rise in unemployment also happened at the national level in August, as the US unemployment rate increased by .2% to 3.7%, Gedney said.

Colorado is overall still low, tying with two other states, Tennessee and Arizona, for the 24th lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

Minnesota had the lowest rate at 1.9%, and New York had the highest rate of 4.7%. Along with Colorado, 31 other states saw a rise in unemployment rates.

“Colorado’s labor force participation rate rose to 69.6% and ranked as the second-highest nationally and matched the March 2020 rate. Prior to 2020, the last time Colorado’s participation rate was at least 69.65% was November 2011,” Gedney said. 

In August, Colorado’s labor force grew by 7,700.

Ranking how Colorado has done since the pandemic began depends on which metrics are used.

“When looking at the change in the participation rates since February 2020, Colorado ranks as the third-fastest recovery,” Gedney said.

The US participation rate increased by .3% last month to 62.4%.  

“That is the largest monthly jump for the US since January,” Gedney said. “When looking at the change in employment population ratio since February 2020, Colorado ranks as the sixth-fastest recovery.”

Over the year, the average workweek for all Colorado employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased from 34.4 to 33.2 hours, while average hourly earnings grew from $32.12 to $34.17, $1.81 more than the national average hourly earnings of $32.36, according to the study by the CDLE.