Colorado Sees Population Boom Despite Job Losses

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Population Boom The number of people moving to Colorado is booming, far outpacing the number of jobs created in the state as employers try to bounce back after a major economic downturn, economists and demographers say.

Economists predict the state will gain between 10,000 to 20,000 jobs this year, but Colorado's population is expected to grow by 85,000, including births, The Denver Post reported Sunday. The state lost 130,000 jobs from 2008 to 2010 but that didn't keep people from wanting to move to Colorado. About 145,000 people moved to Colorado during that time from other states.

That trend likely won't help the state's high unemployment rate, said Martin Shields, a regional economist at Colorado State University. In March, the rate stood at 9.2 percent in March, meaning about 246,000 people were out of work.

"If the labor force continues to grow faster than the economy creates jobs, then we're going to see prolonged unemployment," Shields said.

Shields said economists were "stumped" about why people continue to move to Colorado, despite major job loses.

"It's a question we've been struggling with," he said.

The Denver Post says people it interviewed said they were attracted to Colorado because of its ample recreational opportunities, skiing and sunny weather.

Ian Armstrong, 28, moved to Colorado from Houston in November because he's interested in skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking. He's working part time as a construction engineer and makes half the hourly pay he earned in Houston.

"It's definitely been tougher than I thought," he said.

A big part of the migration appears to come from nearby states. The Internal Revenue Service says about 40 percent of the people moving in and out of Colorado come from and went to other Western states during the past decade.

Elizabeth Garner, Colorado's demographer, says it's possible the gap between job creation and population growth may be misleading in part because the jobs left behind by retiring baby boomers don't show up in new job statistics.

Tom Clark, the executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., said it's also possible that that there are many self-employed consultants and small-businesses owners whose numbers are not included in new jobs reported by government and private-sector employers.

Cheryl Michaels, who moved to Denver from Fresno, Calif., in August 2008, has been unable to find consistent work as an accountant but said that "it's not going to matter where I'm at if the jobs aren't building back up."

"I might as well be here since I like it here," she said.


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