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MCKENZIE LANGE/The Daily Sentinel

A flagger works in the construction zone on First Street and Grand Avenue on Friday. Overall, the four-county region of Mesa, Garfield, Delta and Montrose counties has regained about 74% of its labor force since the pandemic began.

Colorado’s unemployment rate continued to improve over the past six months, nearing its pre-pandemic level from early 2020, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Friday.

By the end of October, the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.4%, but the rate in the four-county region was at least a full percentage point below that, ranging from about 4% in Garfield, Delta and Montrose counties, to 4.7% in Mesa County and Grand Junction.

Overall, the region has regained about 74% of its labor force since the pandemic began, but other parts of the state have done even better, said Ryan Gedney, chief economist for the department.

“Colorado is one of the fastest states recovering in the nation,” he said. “One reason Colorado’s unemployment rate is elevated compared to the U.S. is because the state has had a faster recovery in the labor-force participation rate.”

This time last year, the region’s unemployment rate was as high as 6.3%, but still under the average state rate of 6.6%.

To date, the state has recovered about 313,000, or 83%, of the 375,000 jobs that were lost at the height of the pandemic shutdown last year, making Colorado the 16th fastest in job recovery nationwide, Gedney said.

While some areas of the state are lagging in jobs recovery, others have exceeded it. Colorado Springs, for example is at 102% of job recovery over the past 18 months, while the Denver metropolitan area was at about 85%, he said.

Gedney said some areas of the state, such as Greeley, was at about 51%, saying that likely was mostly due to a slower recovering in the oil and gas industry.

The number of people currently employed in the state grew about 11,900 jobs since September, going to more than 3 million, he said.

Most of those new jobs were in the leisure and hospitality sector, with about 45,200 more jobs over this time last year.

Other improving sectors include professional/business, and trade, transportation and utilities.

Construction jobs, however, have declined by about 1,200 jobs statewide since this time last year, he said.

“It’s possible that construction is having a number of supply chain issues,” Gedney said. “Construction since the Great Recession has had issues finding workers. That’s been well documented. We have seen some gains in construction over the past few months.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of people who have been quitting their jobs increased in 13 states, including in Colorado.

The nearly 25,000 Colorado workers who quit their jobs in September rated the state among the highest nationwide, but far below the 69,000 in Texas and the 40,000 in California, the bureau reported.