Weld County’s unemployment rate continues downward trend | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld County’s unemployment rate continues downward trend

James Redmond
jredmond@mywindsornow.com

Weld County's unemployment rate continued its downward trend, with August numbers dropping below even July's eight-year low.

Trends show the county's economy has continued its improvement despite ongoing woes in the oil and gas industry.

According to the latest numbers released by the state Department of Labor and Employment Friday, the county's unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percentage point to 3.8 percent in August.

Weld County's employment climbed 753 jobs from July to August, bringing unemployment down even with a 410-person labor force hike in the same time.

The area's logging, mining and construction job category, which includes much of the oil and gas industry, rose 200 from July to August. However, Alexandra Hall, chief economist with the state Department of Labor and Employment, cautioned against reading too much into that statistic.

Those numbers will likely need to be revised down, Hall said.

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"I'm afraid the payroll job survey is not capturing the decline happening in our northern region," she said,

Although the state overall employment numbers, and Weld County's as well, show no or little change, that's because the losses in one area are being offset in others, Hall said.

The state is seeing higher unemployment insurance claims for oil and gas workers than in previous years, which they were expecting, she said.

Mining industry claims alone show the industry had a pretty steady claims rate of about 200-300 a month last year. When crude prices plummeted in January, claims doubled to 543; claims jumped past 1,000 in February and peaked in May at 1,563.

That number fell to 1,324 through July, according to state numbers. As of July, mining industry claims represented 4.9 percent of the state's total claims.

However, the rest of the economy is doing well enough that it's not increasing overall claims, which fell from June to July by more than 1,900 to 27,155.

The last time the state's claims were so low was in November 2014.

Even with a declining oil and gas industry, Weld's economy not only remains strong, but continues its overall positive trend.

The mining industry has had an increase in jobs over the past few years that leveled off last year and started a decline, said Joe Winter, senior economist at Colorado Department of Labor. Looking at this year's first quarter numbers, the amount of mining industry jobs have steadily decreased since the start of the year. However, in that time, construction job numbers held steady and even increased a little.

It would make sense that growth in the construction industry has absorbed some of the jobs lost during the oil and gas slowdown, he said. In fact, average construction industry employment through the first quarter of this year in Weld was at 10,216, almost 8 percent higher than the same time last year, according to state numbers.

With summer drawing to an end and school starting back up, some of the largest private sector job gains across the state and in Weld County were in education and health services. Weld and Colorado as a whole saw declines in leisure and hospitality jobs.

Across the state, employers added 2,400 non-farm payroll jobs from July to August for a total of 2.5 million jobs according to the survey of business establishments. Private sector payroll jobs increased 1,600 and government increased 800.

According to the survey of households, the state unemployment rate decreased one-tenth of a percentage point in August to 4.2 percent.

The national unemployment rate declined from July to August to 5.1 percent, still above both Weld's and Colorado's unemployment rates.

Local employment statistics

In the Weld County area

Category August July

Labor force 150,354 149,944

Employment 144,574 143,821

Unemployment 5,780 6,123

Unemployment rate 3.8 4.1

In the Larimer County area

Category August July

Labor force 179,987 180,544

Employment 174,174 174,462

Unemployment 5,813 6,082

Unemployment rate 3.2 3.4

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