Colorado economy expected to grow, but work force changes pose challenges

Colorado is expected to continue to enjoy economic growth. But increasingly expensive housing and a tightening labor market in some areas of the state could make it more difficult for businesses to attract quality job applicants. Changing demographics in the work force also pose challenges.

“There’s really a good news-bad news story to the economy. While there’s incredible optimism around the state’s economy, the high housing prices make it harder for businesses to find quality employees. More than that, with Millenials taking over as the majority work force population, businesses may have to change how they do business to attract and keep these employees,” said Bruce Alexander, president and chief executive officer of Vectra Bank Colorado.

Three speakers shared their outlooks during an annual economic forecast update hosted by Vectra Bank Colorado in Denver: Patricia Silverstein, president of Development Research Partners; Henry Sobanet, director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting; and Elizabeth Garner, state demographer.

While the Colorado economy is forecast to continue strengthening, the results have included rising housing prices and a tightening labor market in some areas of the state. That’s making it more difficult to attract top-tier job candidates.

Members of the Millennial generation, those ages 18 to 34, outnumber baby boomers in the work force as older employers retire. Those two groups will have different needs in coming years.

“It will be important for businesses to look at how they must bridge that gap to take advantage of everything the Millenials bring to the table … as well as taking advantage of what the boomers have in terms of institutional knowledge,” Garner said.

Silverstein said the growing development of higher-density, multi-family housing reflects efforts to cater to younger workers who prefer a more urban lifestyle.

Sobanet said the aging population will require changes in the state budget to accommodate growing demand on health care programs and other resources.

Despite overall economic growth in Colorado, rural areas of the state continue to lag behind the Denver area and must make changes to improve local conditions, Sobanet added. Lower natural gas prices and decreased military spending have played a role in creating more challenging environments.