State lost more jobs in 2009 than originally reported
The Denver Post
Colorado employers last year shed nearly 17,000 more jobs than initially reported, according to revised employment counts released Wednesday.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported a loss of 89,375 non-farm jobs last year based on monthly surveys.
But when those counts were squared up against the unemployment-insurance tax reports that employers file each quarter, the loss turned out to be much larger – 106,300, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“It is suggesting that we caught up with the national recession in a pretty fierce way,” said Rich Wobbekind, an economist with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.
The 4.5 percent decline in non-farm jobs from 2008 to 2009 is probably severe enough to rank Colorado among the bottom 10 states for job creation in 2009, Wobbekind said.
The total decline dwarfs the 74,100 jobs lost in Colorado in 2002 and 2003, during the tech and telecom bust, and represents the worst annual job loss for the state in records going back to 1940.
The revisions also pushed up the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, which initial reports had peaking at 7.8 percent in July.
The unemployment rate in the state ran above 8 percent between April and July last year and peaked at 8.3 percent in June, the department said.
The numbers seem to vindicate job seekers suspicious that official counts understated the severity of the downturn.
“I was surprised when they reported the numbers the first time. I see everybody around me scraping by and having a really hard time,” said Zoltan Mak, 43, of Aurora, a freight-train conductor furloughed by Union Pacific Railroad in October. “I don’t think we’re any better off than any other state.”
Mak, who is getting by on unemployment benefits and his wife’s disability payments, questioned how the state’s unemployment count could be so far off.
Cynthia Adams, who lost her job as a child-protection worker for the Denver Department of Human Services nearly a year ago, said she also questioned the low unemployment numbers.
“Talking to people I would meet and seeing that they were experiencing the same problems, it just didn’t feel like the numbers were low here. I thought, ‘Something is just not right,’ ” she said.
Adams, 47, has moved out of her apartment and into a friend’s place. She’s uncertain whether she can afford to go back to school to train for a job in the medical field.
“It’s a little more comforting knowing it’s not me personally,” Adams said of the unemployment figures. “But it’s concerning. I’ve gone to these job fairs and seen the crowds waiting to get in the door.”
The state’s unemployment rate didn’t reach 8.5 percent, the level needed to trigger an extra seven weeks of unemployment benefits for job seekers such as Mak and Adams.
Had it done so, the state would have faced a quandary about distributing those benefits eight months after the fact.
So why were the counts off by an amount almost equal to the population of Golden?
A key cause was the overly optimistic estimates that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics made on the number of businesses that start and fail each year.
Also, initial payroll counts rely on a random survey, and failed businesses don’t respond to surveys.
“We have seen this happen in the past at turning points in the economy,” said Alexandra Hall, the state’s chief labor economist. “It is a challenge capturing such a dynamic change in a survey.”
Wobbekind said what worries him is that when people rely most intensely on such economic statistics, those numbers are at their least reliable.
Also out Wednesday was the labor-force summary for January. It showed the state-unemployment rate rising to 7.4 percent from a revised 7.3 percent in December.
On a positive note, the state managed to add 1,800 jobs, driven by gains in trade, transportation and utilities; leisure and hospitality; financial activities; and manufacturing.
Colorado was among 29 states that recorded higher unemployment rates in January than in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Rates stayed flat in 11 states and decreased in nine.
But in terms of non-farm payrolls, 30 states reported increases, 11 were flat and nine had decreases in January.
Aldo Svaldi: 303-954-1410 or firstname.lastname@example.org