Archive for category Denver Mayor

Denver Jobs Market – Mile-Hi Unemployment

With the 2014 mid-terms mercifully (almost) behind us, it’s time to start thinking about the next cycle – the May 2015 Denver municipal elections.  All City Council seats and the Mayor will be up for election.  You can already hear them touting Denver’s remarkable recovery from the recovery, and no doubt will be citing the city’s reported 4.2% unemployment rate in their campaigns.

If only it were so.

Over on Watchdog Wire, I’ve been keeping track of the Colorado unemployment rate, if you adjust for the state’s increasing population and decreasing labor rate participation.  The situation is even more disconnected in Denver.  I’m going to go through this in some detail, because it’s worth doing that once.  Future posts will certainly shorthand this.

First, here’s the nominal unemployment rate, as reported in most of the media:

Looks pretty good.  We’ve been on a nice, downward trajectory since early 2010, and we’re almost back to pre-recesssion levels.  Also, take this chance to note the seasonality of Denver’s employment, mostly around the school year and holiday retail.

Unfortunately, the number of jobs hasn’t kept pace with the population growth:

Since the previous peak of employment, in 2008, Denver has 15,000 more jobs, but around 90,000 more people.  So why is the unemployment rate down?  Because a smaller percentage of the population considers itself part of the labor force:

At its peak, in June 2008, 57.1% of the population considered itself part of the labor force – meaning that those people were either working or looking for work.  Since then, the percentage has declined, even as Denver’s population has increased substantially.  What would the labor force look like if participation had kept pace with population growth?

That’s about 40,000 people who would be int he labor force who aren’t.  If we counted those people as being in the labor force, what would the unemployment rate look like?  Honestly, it looks like depression-level unemployment:

That’s right, just under 14.5% unemployment for the City and County of Denver, if people hadn’t exited the labor force in such numbers over the last few years.  In order for the real unemployment rate to match the stated unemployment rate of 4.2%, Denver would need to have created about 38,000 more jobs than it has.

When this calculation is made nationally, one counter-argument has been that as the Baby Boomers get older, Americans are basically aging out of the work force, with a higher percentage of the population 65 or older.  Those people naturally shouldn’t be counted in the labor force.  But that argument doesn’t hold for Denver.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Here in Denver, according to Census estimates, the percentage of the population that’s 18-64 has increased since the recession, as the city enacts pro-density zoning and planning policies:

It’s not much of a difference: 65% to 68.5%, but it certainly doesn’t sustain a story of large families and urban retirees.

Either many people working aren’t being counted in the employment figures, or else the employment situation – and thus the state of Denver’s economy, is far more fragile than we’re being told.  Either way, this has serious policy implications for the route that Denver’s government is taking.  The increase in population is not an accident – it’s the result of a deliberate policy of densification.  And if the increase in property values and “recovery” in jobs is for an increasingly narrow portion of the city, it also means that fewer and fewer people will be paying the higher and higher taxes needed to pay for politicians’ desiderata, making Denver less and less friendly for the middle class.

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Democrats Debate for Republicans

This should be interesting.

Tomorrow evening, May 11, from 7:00 – 8:30, at Denver West High School, Mayoral runoff candidates Chris Romer and Michael Hancock will square off in a debate sponsored by Denver County Republicans.

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Even though Republicans constitute about 1/6 of Denver’s registered voters, Democrats in the nominally non-partisan races tend to ignore them. Not this year. With such a close race, and with neither candidate having a clear, obvious appeal to Republicans, neither candidate can afford to take any votes for granted.  Thus, this debate.  Chuck Plunkett of the Denver Post will MC the event, and KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman will moderate.  The Denver GOP has solicited questions from the public.

The major concerns will surely be about the city budget deficit, taxes, and how the city can encourage job creation and businesses to relocate to Denver.  Given Hancock’s involvement in the Montbello school reforms, and Romer’s State Senate activity on the medical marijuana issue, those may also come into play.

What is particularly interesting is that these are both liberal Democrats, yet they’ll be subjected to an evening of questions from the Republican & small-l libertarian points of view.  They’re likely not used to getting that on a sustained basis, and while they can’t afford to pander (especially given that plenty of non-Republicans will be watching and hearing quotes from the debate), neither can they afford to be seen blowing off a significant opposing world view.

No doubt each will start off by acknowledging their differences with the crowd, but hoping to show that he’s open-minded, willing to listen, etc.  How they frame those positions, and whether or not either shows frustration with questions that routinely challenge his political philosophy will be fascinating to see.

The debate is free and open to the public, and should be very informative.

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The Denver City Council Wants Your Money

Well, that shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone living in Denver over the last few years.  But usually they have the decency to pretend that it’s for someone else.  This time, the Denver City Council wants your money for themselves and the office some of them hope to occupy come May.

At last night’s City Council meeting, they voted themselves (10-3, the Denver Post article neglects to mention who the three were) a 6.6% pay raise, starting two years from now:

Denver is the only large city in Colorado that pays its council members a living wage — $78,173 a year, plus about $30,000 in benefits.

The raise would give the council members an annual salary of $83,332 by July 2014. The council president makes about $10,000 more.

The mayor’s salary will grow to $155,211 from its current $145,601. The salaries of both the clerk and recorder and the auditor would be $134,235, up from their current $125,924.

Right now, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for Denver is 10.9%; a seasonal adjustment might bring that down to 10.4% or so.  This is the highest that it’s been going all the way back to 1994, when the CDLE numbers begin.

In addition, Denver is looking at a $100,000,000 budget gap this year, slated to get worse over the next decade.  To City Council chairman Chris Nevitt, this may only be “symbolic,” but it’s pretty clear what it’s symbolic of.

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An Oldie But Goodie

With the Denver Mayoral race starting to heat up, and with Chris Romer trying to position himself as a ‘pro-business’ candidate, it’s good to revisit exactly what he means by that.


This comes from a conversation he had with the DaVita CEO who remarked that Coloradoans don’t know what investment means.  Apparently, aside from normal infrastructure spending, it means getting taxpayers to fund businesses.

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Isenberg Doesn’t Run

According to the Denver Post, Sage Hospitality CEO Walter Isenberg has decided not to run in the upcoming Denver mayoral election.  Isenberg would probably have tried to use the route that Hickenlooper pioneered: businessman who knows how to create jobs and understand financials.  It would have been unique in this field of candidates, with all the other major candidates coming directly from government.  There has been some discussion about the Denver Republican Party supporting a candidate for mayor this cycle, and Isenberg would have been probably the best thing we could find in Denver.

As it stands, Michael Hancock will likely pick up a fair amount of Republican support, and James Mejia will be able to run as the only candidate with recent executive experience, albeit entirely governmental.

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