Colorado record low unemployment making it tough for employers in service industry

DENVER -- For 34 years Lu Lu Briggs has been a backbone employee at Denver's iconic Blue Bonnet Restaurant.

But finding employees like Lu Lu is getting tougher for some employers in Colorado.

Record low unemployment, at 2.3 percent, remains Colorado's lowest level since 1976 and continues as the lowest rate in the nation.

And that makes it harder and harder for employers to find reliable, long term workers especially in the service industry.

It's hard to quantify just how much the marijuana industry is impacting jobs here but many believe it's really hitting hard.

"The market is more challenging now to find good quality employees to work for us there's so many new restaurants in Denver as well," said assistant manager Lyle Duke who does a lot of the hiring for Blue Bonnet.

But with Denver's exploding population and record low unemployment more people continue to move here without jobs.

In fact a cannabis job fair last weekend attracted thousands of applicants, many from out of town.

And that's making it tough for other employers who end up seeing applicants with little or no experience in a demanding business.

"They move here I think because of the marijuana and they're all very young," Lu Lu said of job seekers she encounters.

Blue Bonnet's owner Gary Mobell said he loves watching the city grow but has concerns as well.

"It becomes very challenging because as a result of this growth we have so many new businesses."

Mobell said he wouldn't speculate on whether cannabis is a factor.

Business analysts say employers may want to rethink the way they're hiring.

"Different people will pick up different jobs working part time or maybe come in or work on a project at an employer so there's ways to leverage what's out there," in terms of labor pool said HR consultant Chelsea Jensen of Mountain States Employers Council.

But a highly mobile population makes that a challenge as well.

"You think they're going to be a quality person and then you hire them and then they're gone two days later you never know," said Blue Bonnet’s Lyle Duke.

The biggest areas of worker shortages in Colorado right now include health care, engineering and construction.