Hiring cranks back up in Colo.

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Colorado’s job growth has kicked back into high gear.

Meanwhile, wages in the state are now rising at a faster clip, based on preliminary employment data released Friday by the state Department of Labor.

Colorado’s average wage was up 4.2 percent in March from a year earlier, based on the preliminary measures. Last year’s increase also appears to have topped 4 percent, higher than initial estimates, based on more complete data from employers, state officials said Friday.

“Compared to the rest of the nation, I think we’re in a very strong spot,” Ryan Gedney, senior economist for the state labor department, said Friday in a briefing accompanying the release of the March jobs data.

Colorado’s job growth rate of 2.4 percent over the past 12 months ranks as the sixth fastest among states, he said.

In March, a month with job growth slowed in many parts of the nation, Colorado added a solid 5,400 nonfarm payroll jobs. The state added an estimated 9,200 payroll jobs in February as a mild winter brought an early boost to construction hiring.

The faster hiring follows last year’s run of slower job growth, when Colorado still ranked among the top states for job creation but the pace was down from the rapid growth of the prior few years.

Colorado’s jobless rate in March held at a seasonally adjusted 3 percent for a seventh month.

Pueblo’s unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent from 4.9 percent in March.

The decline reflects a slight increase in the number of employed workers coupled with a reduction in the size of the area’s labor force, the result of people dropping out of the workforce or leaving to find jobs elsewhere. A year earlier, Pueblo’s jobless rate was 4.2 percent.

According to the March estimates for Pueblo, there were 71,526 employed workers (up 26 workers from February), 3,330 unemployed workers (down 385) and the labor force was at 74,856 (down 359.)

Job growth in Pueblo has slowed in Pueblo following several years recovery from the recession.

Colorado’s faster wage growth reflects an increase in the number of jobs in higher-paying sectors such as construction and oil-and-gas development along with a bump in existing workers’ pay, Gedney said.

Economists view the increase as a positive after years of weak to modest wage growth following the 2007-2009 U.S. recession, he said. Wage growth of more than 4 percent “would be the strongest growth since 2006-2007, which was right before the recession,” he said.

ddarrow@chieftain.com

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