As Unemployment Drops, Coloradans Look to Innovative Hiring

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Data released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment show that Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.1% in August—even as the economy lost 700 jobs.This ends a 34-month streak of continuous job gains, but marks the lowest unemployment rate Colorado has seen since September of 2008.

The new unemployment number—down from 5.3% in July—means that the state is approaching what is considered “full employment.”

Different economists consider full employment to fall anywhere between 4.5 and 5.5%.

There are concerns, however, that rising inflation rates will put pressure on low-wage earners, whose wage gains are not keeping pace with the cost of housing, goods and services.

During the first half of 2014, Colorado’s inflation rate was 2.9%. The national inflation rate was only 1.7%.

Employing All Coloradans
The Colorado economy has been under national scrutiny this year as all eyes are on the state’s growing legal marijuana industry.

Leading up to the 2012 vote, supporters of legalization frequently touted job growth as one of the many potential economic benefits (and, indeed, they appear to have been correct).

But closer to home, Coloradans are innovating in many other ways when it comes to employment.

Take, for example, Seth and Kelly Kelley, the owners of RedTail Coffee in Fort Collins. The couple have made it a priority to hire the homeless.

The Kelleys first had the idea to open the shop and hire homeless workers when they attended a neighborhood meeting regardless a new housing project and were surprised that many community members didn’t support it.

They hope that hiring the homeless will battle the stereotypes held by community members. All the homeless workers will be paid above minimum wage and expected to adhere to the same standards of service as all other workers.

The Kelleys have no prior experience in running a coffee shop, so they hired professional baristas to train them first. As of now, they have one homeless employee.

The saturated market can make running a profitable coffee shop difficult, even though coffeehouses are a big part of many Americans’ morning routines: 65% of Americans have coffee with their breakfasts.

Still, some suggest that the first-year failure rate for coffee shops is only 10% (as opposed to restaurants, for example, which fail at a much higher rate), meaning the Kelleys may be offering employment to homeless Coloradans, and helping the state’s economy, for years to come.

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