Index: Colorado business leaders more upbeat

Richard Wobbekind
Richard Wobbekind

Colorado business leaders are a bit more confident heading into the new year, according to the latest results of a quarterly index tracking their outlooks.

“Business sentiment increased ahead of the first quarter, indicating a general level of confidence among Colorado leaders,” said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the research division of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Worries persist, though, Wobbekind said,  including those related to global and domestic  economic growth, housing costs, regulations and election-year politics. “Federal Reserve policy changes and the availability of work force were the greatest concerns expressed by the panelists.”

CU reported that its Leeds Business Confidence Index climbed to 55.4 for the first quarter of 2016. That’s up nearly two points from the fourth quarter of 2015 but down almost six points from a year ago.

The index is based on the results of quarterly surveys of more than 250 business leaders from across the state and a range of industry sectors. Readings above 50 indicate more positive than negative responses. The overall reading for the index has remained above 50 for 17 consecutive quarters.

For the first quarter of 2016, readings topped 50 for each of the six metrics of the index.

Confidence in the Colorado economy rose more than two points to 59.3 with nearly 46 percent of business leaders who responded to the survey expecting moderate or strong increases. Almost 42 percent of leaders said they anticipate no change, while more than 12 percent forecast a decrease. Confidence in the U.S. economy advanced 1.7 points to move back into positive territory at 50.5.

The reading for hiring expectations in Colorado climbed almost two points to 54.9 with nearly 40 percent of business leaders predicting increased staffing. About 42 percent of leaders forecast no change and 19 percent expect layoffs. As of November, the Colorado unemployment rate had retreated seven-tenths of a point over the past year to 3.6 percent, the lowest level since June 2007. Nonfarm payrolls increased 44,2000. Employment has remained flat in Mesa County, however.

The reading for capital expenditures increased nearly a point to 54 with almost 36 percent of leaders expecting increased spending. While more than 43 percent of leaders forecast no change, nearly 21 percent predicted decreased spending.

The reading for sales advanced almost three points to 58.4 with nearly 52 percent of leaders anticipating increased sales. About 30 percent of leaders predicted no change and nearly 19 percent forecast decreases.

The reading for profits rose almost two points to 55.3 with 43 percent of leaders expecting increased profits. While 36 percent of leaders anticipated no change, 20 percent forecast decreases.