DENVER (AP) – Colorado unemployment fell to 6.9 percent in April, the first time the rate has been below 7 percent since January 2009, state labor officials said Friday.

The state added 11,600 nonfarm payroll jobs from March to April, compared with just 500 from February to March, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said.

The largest gains were in professional and business services and leisure and hospitality. Government jobs remained unchanged.

The unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in March.

The number of jobs statewide is now just 800 below the May 2008 peak.

Though there were concerns in March that federal government spending cuts might stall Colorado’s employment gains, chief state economist Alexandra Hall said it appears other activities are making up for any impacts.

Most encouraging, Hall said, is that unemployment is declining at an accelerating rate.

It’s unclear if that trend will continue, however, particularly because as the rate falls, more people return to the labor force, Hall said.

If the size of the labor force continues to grow, it’s unclear if the number of jobs will keep pace.

“If we have more people come into the labor market than jobs we are creating from month to month, we could actually see the unemployment rate reverse and start rising again, even while we have an improving economy,” Hall said.

“It doesn’t mean the economy is getting worse, it means we have more people moving into the labor market than we can absorb,” she said.

Hall said the labor force is larger now than it was at its peak prior to the Great Recession.

The improving employment conditions are consistent across most of the state, though Hall said that among metro areas, Grand Junction is recovering more slowly.

Two southern counties, Costilla and Huerfano, both still have double-digit unemployment rates.

By ALEXANDRA TILSLEY, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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