Labor Market Focus - Denver

Demand for flexible work in the Denver area has been rising, with workers committing more hours to earning extra income. Trends in pay have been mixed, however, reflecting nationwide trends in demand for goods and services from different sectors.

Key takeaways

  • Hourly pay for flexible workers in the Denver area is over $18, higher than the state and city minimum wages.
  • Unemployment is once again lower in the Denver metropolitan area than in the nation as a whole.
  • But the tight labor market in Denver may be loosening up somewhat as businesses slow pay raises.
  • The long-term trend towards more jobs in leisure and hospitality may finally be resuming.

Denver and the state of Colorado have relatively high minimum wages, but they still fall short of the living wage suggested by researchers at MIT. The average hourly pay for workers using Instawork was much closer, indeed higher than the average across all markets on our platform:


For a realtime pulse of the Denver metropolitan area, including pay rates, demographics, and demand for flexible work, please visit our local labor market page.

Long-term trends in the labor market

In this Labor Market Focus, we take a broader view of the labor market's development in the past and where it may be going next.

Denver had attained a privileged position in the American economy over the decade before the pandemic, with unemployment rates generally much lower than the national average. The initial spike in unemployment at the start of the pandemic was lower as well. But after moving in lockstep with the rest of the economy through much of the recovery, Denver's labor market is again tighter than the already-tight national average:

19 Aug 2022 Denver labor market focus - unemployment

In fact, the number of non-farm workers in Denver now exceeds the pre-pandemic peak, though employment in the metropolitan area is still lagging well behind its pre-pandemic trend:

19 Aug 2022 Denver labor market focus - total nonfarm

The failure of Denver and other markets to resume their pre-pandemic trend could have several causes. The most recent government statistics suggest that 15 million or more prime-age American workers may be suffering from long Covid-19 symptoms, though these symptoms won't always keep them from working.

There is also a continuing hangover from the pandemic in the leisure and hospitality sector. Until the pandemic, the leisure and hospitality sector had been growing as a share of total non-farm employment in the Denver area. It was cut in half by the pandemic and is yet to fully recover. Meanwhile, the trade and transportation sector, another one where Instawork is very active, got a boost in the early days of the pandemic but has almost returned to its pre-pandemic level:

19 Aug 2022 Denver labor market focus - employment

The changes in these sectors reflect shifting demand from consumers for good delivered to the home versus services offered outside the home.

The immediate outlook

We are already seeing signs suggesting that the labor market in the Denver area may be loosening up. Our Pay Signal Index showed businesses slightly more likely to lower than to raise pay in both June and July. Recently, some of the biggest increases in demand for flexible work came in light industrial roles, but an anticipated weak holiday season could add slack to that part of the labor market.

We expect the demand for flexible work to stay strong, however, as businesses fine-tune their staffing to mirror the economic cycle. Long-term trends also suggest steady growth in the major industries we serve. We expect to offer more and more Coloradans and their neighbors a way to earn the extra income they need during what may be an increasingly difficult time.

These links offer more information:

Instawork local labor market resources

Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic Summary

Metro Denver EDC Employment Statistics

For a realtime pulse of the Denver metropolitan area, including pay rates, demographics, and demand for flexible work, please visit our local labor market page.



Realtime metrics

These metrics, derived from data aggregated across the Instawork platform, compare the two weeks starting 8/11/2022 to the previous two weeks. To control for the overall growth of the Instawork marketplace, only shifts involving businesses that booked shifts in both periods are included:

  • $0.03 drop in hourly pay
  • 0.8% point rise in share of short-notice shifts
  • 0.1 hours drop in hours per existing worker

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