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Another Positive Year Expected For Colorado's Economy In 2014

F Delventhal
Creative Commons/Flickr
Denver construction workers in 2009. Construction is expected to grow in Colorado in 2014.

Economists at the University of Colorado are predicting another positive year for the state's economy in 2014, with jobs being created across a wide range of the state’s primary business sectors.

Richard Wobbekind, an economist with CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, says the year ahead will be buoyed by last year’s growth, which turned out to be even stronger than they had originally predicted a year ago.

"We revised our original forecast in July," Wobbekind says. "In fact, overall performance for the year is going to come in even higher – close to 67,000 new jobs in Colorado -- when the data gets revised. To put that in a little bit of context, that’s the strongest growth year since 2000."

The 2014 outlook calls for a gain of 61,300 jobs statewide. All sectors of Colorado’s economy are expected to grow, except the information sector which includes publishing and telecommunications.

Wobbekind says they expect Colorado to be in the top five states for job growth in 2014. The 49th annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum will be delivered Monday, Dec. 9, 2013.

Interview highlights...

Will this year’s momentum continue in 2014?

The numbers are still very positive... [More than] 61,000 jobs are in our forecast for this coming year, which is about 2.5 percent, 2.6 percent job growth for the state. We believe that’s going to put us in the top 5 in terms of growth states for the country. We’re forecasting a slightly slower job growth, really because this job growth was so strong in 2013, we’ve already front-loaded a lot of the work force that we need.

"The numbers are still very positive... Over 61,000 jobs are in our forecast for this coming year. We believe that's going to put us in the top 5 in terms of growth states for the country."

Is there any way to quantify the impact September’s floods might have on next year’s economic growth?

"Our committees were very hesitant to try to put numbers on that; we are doing a breakout session at our forecast this afternoon that will cover the disaster impacts on the individual communities and also on the agricultural sector and the economy. But our overall view is that we think most of it is short-term, meaning that it impacted tourism pretty heavily in the short run, and it obviously impacted individual homeowners and businesses in the short run. Much of that will get rebuilt in the medium term. Then the real question is, 'Is there any sort of lingering effect in the long term?'

What sectors are likely to see the most growth in 2014?

The largest job growth sector is professional and business services. Also growing very strongly is construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; education; and health services – that’s private education and private health services. So we have four sectors growing very strongly. And even a fifth sector, leisure and hospitality – which is tourism – which is also growing at a fairly hefty rate.

What is perhaps interesting is that these sectors require varying skill sets. For example the professional and business services sector that I mentioned first includes a lot of well educated, highly trained individuals in computer science, architecture, engineering, accounting, etc. So this is a great sector to see higher growth in; a higher wage sector, if you will, and certainly it bodes well for income levels in the state as well.

Construction took a big hit during the recession, but now seems to be recovering well.

It’s bouncing back very strongly. In 2013, we had very strong infrastructure investment. Most of us are experiencing that in some way or another, with all of the light rail additions, and the work at the airport, and all of the work on the corridors, and a lot of the FasTracks work going on. Some of it was infrastructure, but a big piece of it was the continued recovery of the residential housing industry.

We envision that going forward into 2014 with even higher levels of permits – not back to the historic highs of 2004 or 2005, but back to levels that we haven’t seen since 2006 in the state. So that’s really good news.

"We'll clearly be a regional leader. There's not a state around us that's doing better than we are right now."

How will Colorado compare to other states in 2014?

Based on our forecast, at this point in terms of the job growth rate, we think Colorado will be number 4 in the country. Again, that’s projected based on other states’ growth rates that are currently projected in forecasts that we see for other parts of the country. But we’ll clearly be a regional leader. There’s not a state around us that’s doing better than we are right now, of any of our bordering states. We believe we’ll be in the top 5 overall.

Read the comprehensive 2014 outlook here.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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