By Dennis Darrow
The Pueblo Chieftain
Southern Colorado is closing the jobs gap with Northern Colorado.
Job growth in Pueblo and Colorado Springs continued into the fall, and outpaced the Fort Collins and Greeley areas, according to revised nonfarm payroll employment figures released this week by the state Department of Labor and Employment. The estimates cover the July-to-October period.
The shift comes as Northern Colorado struggles with the drop-off in the oil-and-gas industry and Southern Colorado’s Front Range cities continue their economic recovery from the 2007-09 U.S. recession.
Statewide, Colorado continued to add jobs but at a slower pace than the government previously estimated. The Denver-metro area, including Boulder, remained the fastest-growing location for jobs, attracting about 8 out of every 10 new jobs in the state.
Pueblo’s year-over-year payroll job growth rate in October was 1.9 percent with an estimated 1,200 jobs added during the previous 12 months, the agency estimates.
Pueblo’s rate of growth ranked third behind Boulder at 3.5 percent and Denver at 2.8 percent.
Colorado Springs nearly matched Pueblo at 1.8 percent.
Greeley, Fort Collins and Grand Junction trailed with growth rates of less than 1 percent.
The estimates are based on detailed job counts filed by employers through June and monthly employers surveys since.
The federal government does not issue its annually revised official job counts until March of each year but Colorado is among the states that releases quarterly updates as more detailed data become available.
Alexandra Hall, chief economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said the figures show the ongoing regional impacts of oil industry layoffs since 2014.
“Pueblo and Colorado Springs have not had to contend with that decline in a major sector, and that’s certainly being reflected in the numbers,” she said.
Still, the oil industry pullback has had an impact on Southern Colorado. Earlier this year, the 1,000-worker EVRAZ steel mill ordered some job cuts and temporarily idled hundreds of workers, citing a slowdown in seamless pipe and rail orders.
Pueblo’s job gains in recent years are tied to the Pueblo Chemical Depot chemical weapons destruction plant, health care, manufacturing, retail, highway construction and marijuana, among other sectors.
The growth also has led to an upturn in commercial construction jobs. Residential construction jobs continue to lag in Pueblo and the rest of the state.
Statewide, the revised payroll estimates show modest but slower job growth in Colorado than initially estimated, Hall said.
Oil industry layoffs have been deeper and job gains in such areas as construction and hospitality have been less than initially estimated, she said. In construction, “We’re talking about a strong growth rate just not nearly as strong as the official series reported,” she said.