Colorado forecast: More growth in 2016, but at a slower pace

Rich Wobbekind
Rich Wobbekind

The Colorado economy is expected to continue to expand in 2016, although at a pace slowed in part by the effects of low commodity prices on the energy and mining sectors.

“Colorado will remain one of the top growth states nationally in 2016. We benefit from being a very desirable state where people want to live and work, allowing us to attract top talent,” says Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the business research division of the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business.

The division compiles an annual business and economic outlook for Colorado with forecasts for 13 industry sectors. A total of more than 100 business, government and industry professionals contribute the outlook. Wobbekind will review the latest outlook during a presentation scheduled for Dec. 14 as part of a quarterly meeting of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. The meeting is set for noon at the Mesa County Workforce Center, 512 29 1/2 Road.

The outlook calls for a net gain of 65,100 jobs in Colorado in 2016 as the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remains below 4 percent.

“Colorado is now staring at full employment,” Wobbekind says. “With such a low unemployment rate and a decreasing labor participation rate, continued in-migration will be integral to supporting economic growth across the state.”

By percentage, Colorado has the fourth-fastest growing population behind North Dakota, Nevada and Texas. The Colorado population is projected to grow by about 95,000 people to a total of about 5.5 million people in 2016.

The strongest sector for projected job growth in the report is the professional and business services sector, which is expected to add 15,500 jobs.

Thanks in part to the high-tech industries and research institutions in Colorado, the state’s concentration of professional, scientific and technical services is 33 percent higher than the nation.

Other leading job growth sectors for 2016 will include the education and health services sector, which is expected to add 10,900 jobs.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector is expected to add 10,800 jobs. The sector includes wholesale and retail trades as well as industries that provide transportation of passengers and cargo, including Denver International Airport and natural gas pipelines. Utilities also are in this sector.

The construction sector, one of the hardest hit during the Great Recession, is expected to add 9,700 jobs in 2016. With household formation continuing to exceed available units and increases in nonresidential and infrastructure building, Colorado is poised to record the highest value of construction since 2006.

Meanwhile, the natural resources mining industry in Colorado is expected to continue to retract.

“Natural resources and mining primarily comprises the oil and gas industry in the state, as well as coal, molybdenum and other minerals,” Wobbekind says. “Overall, these sectors have been reacting to lower commodity prices that impact the feasibility of projects.”

To view the entire outlook for Colorado for 2016, visit the Leeds School of Business Web site at