With the labor force growing slightly less than total employment, the unemployment rate dropped.
During December 2012, the labor force consisted of 2.72 million workers, while total employment was at 2.52 million employed persons.
According to the Household Survey employment totals, total employment remains approximately 108,000 employed persons below the employment peak reached during July 2008.
The first graph shows the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted):
The unemployment rate inches downward, helped along by little labor force growth and some small gains in total employment.
The second graph shows total employment. is up from levels seen during 2009 and 2010, but so far this year has grown only slightly over 2011 levels. Total labor force, on the other hand, is now back up near peak levels, but is no larger than the labor force size of mid-2008.
The third graph shows payroll employment collected through the Establishment Survey of employment, and shows the year-over-year change in payroll employment in Colorado. While the Household Survey showed employment remaining flat year over year, rising by only 0.3 percent, the Establishment Survey shows total payroll employment growing by 2.3 percent from December 2011 to December 2012, which is a much larger gain. The Establishment survey uses a larger sample size, but does not measure employment activity among small firms.
Year-over-year growth in the Establishment Survey has usually been at or under 2 percent since the last recession, and this is generally a smaller growth rate than what was common during the last expansion from 2003-2008. 2.3 percent growth rates during November and Decamber 2012 suggestion some strengthening of the labor market, but is still not a robust growth rate.
The very large losses that occurred during 2009 and 2010 were the largest losses, by percentage, in at least 30 years. Job gains in recent years don't compare with the robust job gains seen during the boom years of the 1990s.