Economist: Recession is in rear view for some workers

LONGMONT — It may not be evident yet, but Colorado, Boulder County and Longmont are already starting to see the effects of an economic recovery.

“You’re going to start feeling like we’re in a recovery by the middle of the year,” Patty Silverstein, president and chief economist for Development Research Partners, told attendees Thursday morning at the annual Advance Longmont Economic Summit.

In fact, “for people in the higher-wage sectors, their recession is over,” she said.

Silverstein referenced high-income “supersectors” such as the information sector, which has an average weekly wage of $2,300. People working in those areas have come through the downturn. People in the low-wage sectors, such as leisure and hospitality where the average weekly wage (without tips) is $550, the recession will drag on for months, she said.

In Colorado, 37% of the employment base is in the lowest supersector, she said, which explains why the state, despite its robust economy going into the recession, ranks near the middle of the states in its ability to bring back jobs.

She compared the effects of the COVID recession with the Great Recession, when 155,000 jobs in Colorado were lost over 20 months and it took 38 months for recovery.

In the COVID recession, 343,000 jobs were lost in three months. About 56% of those jobs have come back, she said, but it will likely be April of 2023 before employment levels return to pre-COVID levels.

Colorado’s metropolitan statistical areas varied significantly in how many jobs were lost as the pandemic began. The Boulder MSA, which includes Longmont, lost 4.8% of its jobs; Fort Collins/Loveland 4.4%; Greeley (Weld County) 4.2%; and Denver, which includes Broomfield, 3.6%. The best performing MSA was Grand Junction, which dipped 2% in its employment numbers.

Some jobs won’t come back, Silverstein said, and others will change. Some businesses won’t be able to reopen, and others will operate with a more lean staff. “Once the economy is able to more broadly open up, there will be a need for people on the retail floor…,” she said.

“Successful companies will learn to use their brick-and-mortar operations along with online,” she predicted, with a shift in how they deploy their workers in order to accommodate their new operations.

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