Inspire Colorado, a C4 dedicated to disseminating positive messages about Colorado’s economy under Gov. Hickenlooper, offers all sorts of fun charts to share on Facebook on its website. We conducted a Peak Polygraph on one of Inspire’s charts and found it to be misleading. The chart is titled “Colorado’s Job Growth” and includes data from January 2011 through April 2014. We checked the numbers and found that the group used the Total Labor Force numbers reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is not an accurate reflection of employment vs. unemployment in the state as the figure adds both numbers.
Here’s an example. In January 2011, as shown in the graph, the labor force totaled 2,722, 281. That number includes 2,481,505 Coloradans who were employed as well as 240,776 Coloradans considered unemployed. The 2014 number has the same issue. But, what’s the story behind the numbers? In honor of yesterday’s Labor Day holiday, we took a look at employment numbers in Colorado.
The real number of employed Coloradans in January 2011 was 2,481,505. The real number of employed Coloradans in April 2014 was 2,634,716. So, we gained over 153,000 jobs – that’s good, right? Well, maybe not. We estimated the January 2011 population by splitting the difference between the July 2010 and 2011 numbers, so we will say that the population in January 2011 was about 5,082,244. The July 2013 population estimate (latest available) was 5,268,367. That means that the state gained nearly 200,000 people and only 153,000 jobs, which doesn’t even account for the jobs Colorado had to gain to backfill the jobs that were lost.
Or, put another way. In July 2007, unemployment was pretty low – 3.9%. That month, 2,580,220 Coloradans had jobs, which translated to about 53% of the population. In July 2014, the number of employed Coloradans was 2,657,811, which translated to just 50% of the population with jobs. That number might even be generous since we’re a year behind in population growth.
The bottom line here is that job growth isn’t even keeping up with population growth, much less helping people who lost jobs in the recession, so when Hickenlooper touts his robust economy, he should consider the Coloradans who have fallen through the cracks in his economy.