Opinion on the Economy

Those weary of reading gloomy news as a stubbornly slow economy grinds along can take heart as such words as “recovery” and “rebound” start appearing in headlines. By many accounts, the economic news is improving, if not markedly so.

The latest economic outlook report from the University of Colorado is especially upbeat in forecasting business and labor conditions for 2013. According to the latest version of the annual report, economic recovery is expected to continue in Mesa County next year with growth in industries, payrolls and wages. The statewide outlook is much the same.

Richard Wobbekind, an economist who also serves as executive director of the Leeds School of Business at CU, put it this way: “We see a very positive environment for 2013.” By the way, Wobbekind is scheduled to present the findings of the 2013 report in person at a quarterly meeting of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce scheduled for Dec. 10 at the Grand Vista Hotel.

In Mesa County, payrolls are expected to edge up to 65,115 in 2013 with job growth in the health care sector in particular. Average annual wages in the county are forecast to continue to rise as well.

Statewide, Wobbekind said he projects Colorado to rank among the top 10 states for job growth next year with the addition of 42,100 positions. Nearly every sector of the economy is predicted to grow.

There’s other good news to report in the rebound of real estate transactions in Mesa County. With a month still left to go in 2012, real estate sales already have topped year-end totals for the past three years. The dollar volume of 2012 sales has climbed to its highest level since 2009.

Nationally, a monthly measure of consumer confidence climbed to its highest level in five years on increasingly upbeat expectations for improving business and labor conditions.

On the other hand, a number of factors prevent what could be an even more robust economic recovery — chief among them the ongoing wrangling in Washington over the so-called fiscal cliff of federal tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect next year. Given the threat of a return to recession if the U.S. plunges off the cliff, it would seem sensible that Congress and President Barack Obama would come to some sort of compromise to avoid that possibility. As of press time, however, politics continued to trump national interests.

Ultimately, what businesses and consumers desire most is more certainty — in economic conditions, to be sure, but also in taxes and regulations.

It’s difficult for business owners to make hiring decisions or for consumers to make purchasing decisions when they don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s as if they’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Good economic news is welcome. Here’s hoping 2013 does, in fact, bring a lot more of it. But what’s needed is more certainty. Here’s hoping we’ll get at least a measure of that, too.