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Colorado June employment shows stress of oil, gas slowdown

Colorado is gaining more jobs this year, but it’s still not reaching last year’s pace, and that’s likely due to the ongoing oil and gas slump.

In numbers released Tuesday, Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment reports that the state gained more than 11,300 jobs from May to June, more than double from the previous month. But the unemployment rate, based on a survey of households, rose one-tenth of a percent to 4.4 percent, said Alexandra Hall, chief economist with the state Department of Labor and Employment.

“Usually when we see a large over-the-month gain like this, my expectation is there’s a greater probability it will be revised down somewhat,” she said. “But still, it’s an encouraging showing after a couple of months of smaller growth.”

In Weld County, the unemployment rate, unadjusted for seasonal fluctuations, is starting to show the wear and tear of the oil and gas slowdown. The unemployment rate bumped up to 4.6 percent by four-tenths of a percent from last month. It’s still a tenth of a percent below last year at the same time, which saw a 4.7 percent unemployment rate.

Larimer County’s rate also grew in June to 3.8 percent, up two-tenths of a percent from May, but still well below last June’s rate of 4.3 percent.

Unemployment numbers are based on a survey of households, and payroll jobs are based on a survey of establishments.

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Hall said the employment picture in Colorado is somewhat flat for the first half of the year. Much of that may have to do with the decline in the oil and gas industry, but it likely won’t too big of an impact to the economy, she said.

Hall explained that oil and gas prices began to drop last year at this same time, falling to around $50 a barrel. They recently jumped back up to a short-lived $60 a barrel before plummeting again amid talks the embargo on Iran’s oil exports would be lifted with the recent security agreement, which still must be approved by Congress.

“The expectation is as long as it moves forward, that will eliminate the embargo and bring oil from that country on to the global market,” Hall said, thus increasing supplies and pushing oil prices down again.

Hall said she’s also kept a close eye on unemployment claims in the oil and gas industry, which experienced a spike in January, February and March and slowly declined through May.

“Those oil and gas initial claims and continued claims still were not large enough to stop the continuing decline from previous year levels in initial claims and continued claims in Colorado,” Hall said. “So we’re seeing those data sources show continuing improvement.”

The addition in construction and manufacturing, she said have helped stabilize the losses in oil and gas.

This article was written by Sharon Dunn from Greeley Tribune, Colo. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.