Press Release: Colorado Employment Situation – May 2021

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For Immediate Release
Date: June 18, 2021 / 8:00 A.M.
Contact: Office of Government, Policy and Public Relations

Colorado Employment Situation – May 2021
17,100 Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Added in May; Unemployment Rate Falls to 6.2%

May Employment Situation Charts for PR

Household survey data

According to the survey of households, Colorado’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined two-tenths of a percentage point in May to 6.2 percent. During the same period, the national unemployment rate decreased three-tenths of a percentage point to 5.8 percent.

Other highlights from the household survey:

  • Colorado’s labor force grew by 1,300 in May to 3,198,100. The share of Coloradans participating in the labor force was 68.6 percent in May, just below the pre-pandemic February 2020 labor force participation rate of 68.7 percent.
  • The number of individuals employed in Colorado increased by 7,200 in May to 3,000,000, which represents 64.4 percent of the state’s 16+ population. While Colorado’s employment-to-population ratio continues to improve since April 2020, when it was 57.0 percent, it is still well below the pre-pandemic level of 66.8 percent.

The Colorado counties with the highest unemployment rates in May were:
San Miguel (11.4%), Pitkin (8.5%), Huerfano (8.0%), Pueblo (8.0%), Gilpin (6.9%), and Summit (6.9%). County-level unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted and are directly comparable to Colorado’s May unadjusted rate of 5.7 percent.

May Employment Situation - Graphic 1
May Employment Situation - Graphic 2

Establishment survey data 

Employers in Colorado added 17,100 nonfarm payroll jobs from April to May for a total of 2,708,400 jobs, according to the survey of business establishments. Private sector payroll jobs increased 16,300 and government added 800 jobs. Over the past 13 months, Colorado has gained back 265,200 of the 375,800 nonfarm payroll jobs lost between February and April of last year. That translates to a job recovery rate of 70.6 percent, which exceeds the U.S. rate of 65.9 percent.

Other highlights from the establishment survey: 

  • April estimates were revised up to 2,691,300, and the over the month change from March to April was a gain of 17,400 rather than the originally estimated increase of 17,000 (monthly revisions are based on additional responses from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates).
  • Private industry sectors with significant job gains in May were: leisure and hospitality (~14,400), trade, transportation, and utilities (~3,300), and professional and business services (~2,600). Significant over the month private sector job loss occurred in other services (~1,800).
  • Since May 2020, nonfarm payroll jobs have increased 188,600, with the private sector growing by 183,600 jobs and government adding an additional 5,000 jobs. The largest private sector job gains were in leisure and hospitality (~93,900), trade, transportation, and utilities (~43,900), and education and health services (~20,100). During that same period, construction (~4,200), mining and logging (~2,000) and information (~1,900) payroll jobs declined. Colorado’s rate of job growth over the past year is 7.5 percent, compared to the U.S. rate of 8.9 percent.
  • Over the year, the average workweek for all Colorado employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased from 33.5 to 33.9 hours, while average hourly earnings increased from $31.42 to $31.79, nearly a dollar and fifty cents more than the national average hourly earnings of $30.33.


All Colorado estimates from the establishment and household surveys, including greater geographic detail, are available at: Estimates for all states and the nation are available at:

The June 2021 Colorado Employment Situation will be released at 8:00 AM on Friday, July 16, 2021. The full schedule of release dates for calendar year 2021 estimates is available at


Technical Notes 

This release provides information on industry employment and labor force statistics for May 2021, the most current estimates available from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The reference period for the establishment and household surveys was the pay period or week that includes the 12th of the month. Therefore, this release provides an estimate of Colorado’s employment situation as vaccination rates among the adult population continued to increase and additional capacity restrictions were relaxed for businesses across the state. For Colorado unemployment insurance claims activity and related statistics, visit

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.

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. Other series based on this survey include private sector average weekly hours, average hourly earnings and average weekly earnings.

The business establishment survey covers about seven times the number of households surveyed and is therefore considered a more reliable indicator of economic conditions. Because the estimates are based on two separate surveys, one measuring jobs by worksite and the other measuring persons employed and unemployed by household, estimates based on these surveys may provide seemingly conflicting results.


Supplemental Information | Labor Force Summary May 2021 | City Report May 2021
County Report May 2021 | May 2021 Press Release