Strong hiring in arts, entertainment and recreation helped drive a net gain of 14,600 nonfarm jobs in the state last month, according to an update Friday from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The CDLE also reported that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, which has run above the U.S. rate since October of last year, now matches it at 3.6%.

“I continue to be amazed by the economic momentum, given the inflation, supply-chain disruptions, and labor shortages — not to mention the latest national headwind, interest rate hikes. The political headwinds seem to be equally as annoying, but less problematic,” said Broomfield economist Gary Horvath in an email discussing the April employment report.

Of the nonfarm jobs gained between March and April in Colorado, about 5,800, or four in 10, came from arts, entertainment and recreation alone. That’s remarkable given the sector accounts for just 1.9% of overall employment in the state. What is behind that surge in hiring isn’t entirely clear, and the big gain likely won’t hold up after employers report more payroll information.

“That is an outlier and probably due for a downward revision. We may not know the full story,” said Ryan Gedney, a principal labor economist with the CDLE during a news call Friday morning.

Arts, entertainment and recreation employment in Colorado was at 60,000 in January 2020 before the pandemic hit. That count plunged to 24,400 by that April, making the sector among the most devastated by closures and other limits on public gatherings. Last month’s count of 59,800, jobs, if it stands, puts the sector within 200 positions of where it was at the start of 2020.

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Strong hiring was also reported in trade, transportation and utilities, up by 3,200 jobs last month; professional and business services, up by 3,000 jobs, and construction, up by 1,900 jobs. Manufacturing, government, other services and financial activities reported small losses on the month.

Gedney noted that the state has recovered 108% of the jobs lost during the early months of the pandemic, marking the 12th fastest recovery of any state. Nationally, about 95% of jobs lost in the spring of 2020 have been recovered. Led by Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, every metro area of the state has recovered the jobs lost during the pandemic, with one exception. The job recovery rate in metro Greeley, including all of Weld County, is a low 56%.

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