County employment picture brightens


Staff Writer

The March 2013 unemployment rate in Archuleta County was 9.7 percent, with 573 people claiming unemployment out of a workforce of 5,878.

Not only was this an improvement over February, when the rate was 10.2, but it was a drop of more than a full percentage point compared to March 2012, when the rate was 11.0 percent.

However, the economic situation may not be as rosy as these figures seem to indicate, and a further examination of the numbers gives a clearer picture.

While the number of people claiming unemployment did drop by 84 over the year, the number of people who actually claimed to be employed only increased by nine — 5,305 people had jobs in Archuleta County in March 2013 compared to 5,296 in 2012. The other 75 people either left the county or stopped participating in the job market.

A similar trend was seen at the state level.

“The unemployment rate decreased one tenth of one percentage point over the month to 7.1 percent,” according to a report issued last week by Chief Economist Alexandra Hall from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “The decrease in the unemployment rate was caused by a larger increase in the number of people reporting their status as employed than in the number of people actively participating in the labor force.”

Over the year, the unemployment rate declined 1 1/10th of a percentage point from 8.2 percent in March 2012. The number of Coloradans participating in the labor force increased 18,400, total employment increased 47,400 and the number of unemployed decreased 29,100.

The national unemployment rate decreased 1/10th of a percentage point from February to March and declined from 8.2 percent in March 2012 to 7.6 percent in March 2013.

According to Hall’s report, the unemployment rate, labor force, labor force participation, total employment and the number of unemployed are based on a survey of households. The total employment estimate derived from this survey is intended to measure the number of people employed.

On the other hand, nonfarm payroll jobs estimates are based on a survey of business establishments and government agencies, and are intended to measure the number of jobs, not the number of people employed. The business establishment survey covers about seven times the number of households surveyed and is therefore considered a more reliable indicator of economic conditions for the state.

Nonfarm payroll jobs in the state increased 500 from February to March to 2,353,600 jobs, according to the survey of business establishments. Private sector payroll jobs increased 1,100 and government decreased 600. The largest over-the-month private sector job gains were in professional and business services, education and health services, and construction. The largest over-the-month declines were in trade, transportation and utilities, financial activities and manufacturing.

Over the year, nonfarm payroll jobs increased 58,700. Private sector payroll jobs increased 55,700 and government increased 3,000. Government job gains were due to increases in local government payrolls and state and local educational services.

Over the year, the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased from 34.3 to 34.6 hours and average hourly earnings increased from $24.23 to $25.23.

On a related note, Tax Freedom Day is the day when Americans finally have earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year. In 2013, Colorado taxpayers worked until April 17 (16th latest nationally) to pay their total tax bill.

Colorado’s personal income tax system consists of a flat rate of 4.63 percent. That rate ranks 13th lowest among states that charge an individual income tax. Colorado’s income tax collections per person were $816 in 2010 which ranked 25th highest nationally.

When considering all other taxes, including sales tax and property tax, Colorado’s 2010 tax burden of 9.1 percent ranked 19th lowest out of 50 states, and is below the national average of 9.9 percent. On average, Colorado’s taxpayers pay $4,104 per capita in state and local taxes.

Colorado’s Tax Freedom Day this year occurred one day before the national Tax Freedom Day, which was April 18, 2013.