Index: Colorado business leaders upbeat heading into fourth quarter

Rich Wobbekind
Richard Wobbekind

While the latest numbers have slipped a bit, Colorado business leaders remain confident overall heading into the fourth quarter.

The University of Colorado reported that its Leeds Business Confidence Index fell 1.7 points for the fourth quarter, but at 59.5 continues to reflect an upbeat outlook.

“I wouldn’t put too much concern in a slight dip in the numbers. Last year and this year, we’re growing at the fastest rate in terms of employment growth that we’ve seen since the year 2000. So we’re really on a very, very strong growth rate for jobs year over year,” said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the business research division at the Leeds School of Business at CU.

The index is based on the results of quarterly surveys of business leaders from across the state and a range of industry sectors. Readings above 50 indicate positive expectations for the coming quarter. The index has reflected positive expectations for 12 straight quarters.

For the fourth quarter of 2014, the results were positive for each of the six metrics the index tracks.

Confidence in the Colorado economy slipped two points, but remained well into positive territory with a reading of 63.9. Nearly 57 percent of business leaders responding to the survey expect the state economy to expand. Confidence in the national economy fell more than a point to 56.4, with nearly 41 percent of business leaders anticipating growth. Confidence in the state economy has surpassed the national economy for 38 straight quarters.

A component of the index tracking hiring plans fell 1.6 points to 57.9, with nearly 44 percent of business leaders anticipating increased staffing and 43 percent neutral.

Colorado has posted 47 consecutive months of year-over-year employment growth. Over the last year alone, employment has increased 4.7 percent in Greeley, 3 percent in Boulder and 2.2 percent in the combined Denver, Aurora and Broomfield area.

In contrast, employment has grown seven-tenths of a percent in Mesa County over the past year. Mesa County and Colorado Springs remain the only two metropolitan areas in Colorado that have yet to return to prerecession employment levels.

The reading for capital expenditures fell 1.8 points to 57.8. More than 40 percent of business leaders said they anticipate an increase in capital spending, while almost 47 percent remained neutral.

The reading for sales declined more than a point to 62.1, although more than 57 percent of leaders said the expect an increase in sales in the fourth quarter.

The reading for profits decreased the most among the six metrics for the fourth quarter, dropping 2.4 points to 58.8. Still, nearly 48 percent of business leaders said they expect rising profits.