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Colorado books another month of strong job gains, but the unemployment rate rises again

Colorado employers reported adding 8,500 nonfarm jobs in February, marking a second strong month of hiring this year, according to a monthly update on the state’s employment situation from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Despite that, the number of people who reported being unemployed rose by 4,200, pushing the state’s unemployment rate from 3.4% to 3.5% last month, which remains below the U.S. rate of 3.9%.

“Those represent the highest unemployment rates in two years. That said, those rates are still historically low,” said Ryan Gedney, the department’s senior labor economist. Gedney said during a news call Friday morning that he was leaving his job after nearly 17 years with the labor department.

Colorado’s unemployment rate ranked 27th lowest between Indiana and North Carolina. North Dakota has the lowest rate at 2%, while California pushed Nevada aside to claim the highest at 5.3%.

Private sector companies added 6,500 net new jobs, while governments boosted their payrolls by 2,000 jobs between January and February. Last month’s job gains were the strongest since June, when the state added 12,500 jobs.

But there is a good chance they will be revised lower, which happened to January’s numbers. Initially estimated at 8,000, those dropped to 5,900 jobs after additional survey responses came in from employers.

The sectors with the biggest monthly gains in February were educational and health services, up 3,400; government was up 2,000; construction was up 1,200, and professional and business services were up 1,100. No sectors had a significant monthly decline.

Over the past year, the state has added an estimated 60,300 jobs, with 33,500 from the private sector and 26,800 from local governments.

Education and health services led among private industry sectors with 18,900 jobs added in the past 12 months, followed by the higher paying sector of professional and business services, up by 10,100. Leisure and hospitality added 8,300 jobs.

Reflecting softening consumer spending, trade, transportation and utilities, which includes retailers, has shed 4,400 jobs. The information sector is down 1,900 and manufacturing is down 1,600 jobs. Colorado’s annual job growth rate was 2.1%, ahead of the U.S. rate of 1.8% and 10th highest among states.

So how did Colorado add an estimated 8,500 jobs last month and also see 4,200 more unemployed workers?

The first number is based on a survey of employers, while the second one is based on a survey of households and includes the self-employed and entrepreneurs.

The household survey reported 6,000 fewer people in the state describing themselves as employed and 1,800 who said they had dropped out of the labor force, meaning they weren’t working or actively looking for work.

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