Colorado economic outlook for 2011: slow and steady growth

Rich Wobbekind
Rich Wobbekind

Colorado will experience slow and steady economic growth in 2011, according to the latest forecast prepared by an economist at the University of Colorado.

“I think the overall economic picture for Colorado in 2011 is slow, steady growth — much like the national economy. We would all like a more rapid recovery, especially in terms of jobs, but we’re just not going to see that yet,” said Richard Wobbekind, an economist at the Leeds School of Business at CU in Boulder.

Wobbekind’s forecast calls for a gain of 10,100 jobs in Colorado in 2011. That compares with a loss of more than 140,000 jobs in the state over the past two years. While most sectors of the economy will return to growth in 2011, the construction, government, information and manufacturing sectors will continue to shed jobs, he said.

The strongest sector for projected job growth in Colorado in 2011 is in the professional and business services sector, which provides high-paying jobs to computer systems designers, engineers and scientific research and development groups. The sector is expected to add 7,000 jobs in 2011. Still, that’s less than half the 16,100 jobs the sector added in 2007.

Other leading growth sectors for 2011 are likely to include trade, transportation and utilities with 3,500 jobs added; education and health services with 3,300 jobs added; and leisure and hospitality with 3,000 jobs added.

Unfortunately, job growth in these major sectors won’t make much of a dent in the employment problem, Wobbekind. “All the job growth in these sectors is still subpar in historical context,” Wobbekind said. “It will not be enough to bring down the unemployment rate in any meaningful way or to create great momentum in the state economy. But at least it is moving in the right direction. It is just moving at a slower pace than we would like.”

The two sectors expected to lose the most jobs in 2011 are construction and government. The construction sector will lose 7,000 jobs in 2011. The government sector will lose 1,800 jobs  – the first loss in 20 years of detailed sector statistics.

In 2010, Colorado didn’t experience the recovery that had been anticipated by many economists and the state lagged the nation, Wobbekind said.