Colorados unemployment rate is too high. Few people would argue otherwise.
Most people think they know why. The economy slumped and jobs disappeared. At the same time, many believe, undocumented workers fill some jobs that should go to citizens.
It turns out theres another factor: Unemployed people moving to Colorado.
A front-page story in the Sunday Denver Post explains that during past economic slumps, migration to Colorado slowed or even reversed, but not this time.
Colorado employers shed 130,000 jobs from 2008 to 2010, but the state added 145,000 new residents, the Post says. This year, economists expect Colorado to gain 10,000 to 20,000 jobs and 85,000 people, including more than 30,000 transplants from other states.
Those new residents affect the jobless numbers in complicated ways. Some are self-employed; they may either need paid employment to supplement their income or they maybe able to hire someone else. Some are children, moving here with parents who are employed. Others relocated for a spouses employment, and although they need work, they arent on the verge of homelessness. Some are retirees lured here by the quality of life.
But that quality of life brings others here as well.
Some come because Colorado is a beautiful place to live, even for the unemployed. That seems especially true for young people who lacking not only a job but a place to live figure that Colorado, with its active outdoor lifestyle, is the best place to start looking. They may be ambitious or they may want to be lifties (or lifties now and CEOs later), but they need jobs. College students really arent immigrants until they decide to stay after graduation.
And, the Post says, while Colorados economy may not be as healthy as it was three or four years ago, things are worse elsewhere. No job-search strategy is guaranteed, but it does make some sense to leave a region thats still shedding jobs for a place where at least some are being created.
At the same time, the story pointed out, many unemployed Coloradans cant afford to leave the state because they cant sell their homes. So, when job seekers move into the state, the unemployment rate rises.
That may be something Colorado has to get used to. According to Colorado State University regional economist Martin Shields, If the labor force continues to grow faster than the economy creates jobs, then were going to see prolonged unemployment. Economists dont expect near-term improvement in the current 9.2 percent jobless rate. The social and governmental costs of unemployment weigh heavily on those who are employed.
Thats basic math. What to do about it is not quite so simple. Businesses and government officials arent going to quit promoting the states attractions, nor should they. Those mountains give Colorado an advantage over other states that otherwise offer the same perks to bring big employers here.
But perhaps its time to send another message: Dont come to Colorado until you have a job lined up, because winters are long and cold and you cant live on high-altitude air.