Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.6 percent in March, the lowest in the U.S. and the lowest since the state started tracking employment in 1976. As an expert who takes the daily pulse of the Colorado job market, here’s my thoughts.
- It is remarkable is that we are seeing this kind of unemployment rate despite the ‘Rocky Mountain Rush’ – the more than half a million people that have moved here in the past 5 years.
- While unemployment is so low, salaries are not keeping up with the cost of living. There are a massive amount of workers who are having to hold onto 2-3 part-time and weekend jobs to be able to make ends meet or are participating in the ‘gig’ economy either through flexible jobs like driving for Uber or marketing their skills for one-off project contracts.
- With unemployment so low right now, it is becoming more difficult for employers to find good talent. This bodes well for the job seekers. Job seekers are already having more choice in terms of overall opportunities and hard job offers. I anticipate that employers will begin raising salaries in order to recruit and poach talent.
- There are a still a massive amount of jobs in Colorado. There are tons of jobs in the finance, education, healthcare, hospitality, nonprofit, food and beverage and construction sectors. The newer types of positions fall in the digital and tech realm. I see a massive amount of new jobs in digital sales marketing, programming and in tech start ups.
- The amount of time an employee is at one job is also decreasing. In the past, the average tenure of a job was upwards of 8-10 years. Today it is more like 2-3 years. Particularly for entry-mid level professionals who are quickly building their resumes and then moving on to higher paying positions. Employers know that this level of attrition is hurting their bottom line and the shift I anticipate is that employers will find new ways (through salaries and benefits) to keep employees.
- I see a lot of older job seekers having to go back to school to obtain new skills to remain employable and a niche industry has developed as a result. Galvanize is a 5-year-old company that provides relatively low-cost 12-week to 12-month technical training programs for anybody wanting to learn or enhance programming, coding, web development or other tech skills. Working with local company and industry partners, they also have created an impressive and aggressive job placement programs for their participants. Similar companies are popping up to help keep up with the demands of new digital jobs.
- Younger professionals have great challenges. Both entry and lower mid-level professionals are finding it extraordinarily difficult to live in Colorado. With student loan debt, housing costs, health care insurance premiums, transportation and other day-to-day living expenses, millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Dreams of owning a home, getting married, starting a retirement account are just that…dreams. Entry level salaries are hovering on average at about $32-40,000 per year which are similar to entry level wages 20 years ago. At this rate, they won’t be able to afford a home until they reach their forties.
- Politicians are going to be quick to take credit for Colorado’s low unemployment rate but in the same breath, they should also be held accountable to offer solutions to the many cost of living/quality of life issues that Coloradans are dealing with. Recently, several politicians have announced their candidacies to replace our current term-limited governor. Expect these issues to be at the top of the list in the upcoming Governor’s race.