Colorado economy — and payrolls — expected to grow

The Colorado economy — and payrolls — should continue to grow through the second half of 2014, according to a mid-year outlook prepared at the University of Colorado.

“The growth for Colorado that we are forecasting for 2014 would make it the fourth-fastest growing state in the country,” said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the business research division at the Leeds School of Business at CU in Boulder.

Wobbekind presents an annual economic outlook for Colorado each December and updates the report every summer.

“Colorado is growing at roughly twice the pace of the national economy in terms of job growth. It continues to be a shining star in the grand scheme of things, as it was in 2013,” he added.

Rich Wobbekind
Rich Wobbekind

Nonfarm payrolls in Colorado are expected to increase 68,000 in 2014, up from the 61,300 net new jobs forecast for the year in December.

Employment in natural resources and mining, which includes oil and natural gas development, accounts for only 1.4 percent of the labor force in Colorado. But the industry has been integral to the  post-recession economy in the state, Wobbekind said. While employment in the sector was forecast to increase 31,100 jobs in 2014, the sector already has added 33,200 jobs, he added.

The manufacturing sector also has grown faster than expected, particularly for durable goods manufacturers, Wobbekind said. Factory employment has increased 2.8 percent over the past year for a third consecutive year of gains, he said.

Construction payrolls have grown 8 percent over the past year, but remain 20 percent below peak employment in 2007.

Payrolls in the leisure and hospitality sector have increased almost 5 percent over the past year. Wobbekind cited a record-breaking ski season for Colorado resorts and said Denver International Airport has become the fifth-busiest airport in the United States.

Employment in the education and health services sector has grown 4.5 percent on a year-over-year basis, Wobbekind said. While the long-term economic effects of federal health care reforms remain to be seen, pent-up demand for health care is credited with a 10 percent increase in national health care spending, he said.

Professional and business services have added 17,500 net new jobs over the past year as demand continues for technical, consulting and legal services, he said.

While the winter wheat harvest in Colorado is expected to double in 2014 compared to the 2013 harvest that was affected by drought, persistent dry conditions in some areas of the state have discouraged cattle ranchers from increasing herds, Wobbekind said.