Colorado business leaders less upbeat at start of 2019

Richard Wobbekind
Richard Wobbekind

Colorado business leaders remain upbeat at the start of 2019, but far less so than in recent years, according to the latest results of a quarterly survey.

“So they’re still optimistic, just not bullishly optimistic,” said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the research division of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The Leeds Business Confidence Index fell to 50.1 for the first quarter of 2018. That’s 4.5 points lower than the fourth quarter of 2018 and the lowest reading since 2011. Still, readings above 50 reflect more positive than negative responses.

For the first quarter of 2019, readings remained above growth-neutral 50 for five metrics the index tracks, but fell to 42.5 for the outlook for the national economy, mirroring concerns expressed in financial markets. Expectations for the second quarter were flat.

“We just came through the holiday season with really strong retail sales. The employment numbers are still very strong. The unemployment rate is still low. GDP growth for the fourth quarter will end up being a very solid number. I don’t think you can look at anything related to the real economy, other than perhaps housing, and say ‘It’s really slowing down.’ There is plenty of spending power out there,” Wobbekind said.

Confidence in the Colorado economy fell 4.3 points to 51 with 24.8 percent of the 234 business leaders responding to the survey upon which the index was based forecasting moderate growth. While 56 percent of leaders said they anticipated no change,
19.2 percent predicted a moderate or strong decline.

Business leaders were most optimistic about sales — although at 53.5, the reading fell 2.6 points. While 36.7 percent of leaders expected moderate or strong increases in sales, 40.2 percent forecast no change and 23.1 percent predicted moderate or strong decreases.

The reading for hiring fell 3.6 points to 51.7 with 28.6 percent of leaders planning moderate of strong increases in staffing,
50.4 percent anticipating no change and 21 percent predicting layoffs.

The reading for capital expenditures fell 3.5 points to 50.9 with 29.5 percent of leaders forecasting moderate or strong increases in spending, 44.9 percent expecting no change and 25.7 percent anticipating moderate or strong decreases.

The reading for profits fell 5.4 points to 51 with 33.4 percent of leaders predicting moderate or strong increases, 36.8 percent expecting no change and 29.9 percent anticipating moderate or strong decreases.