Statewide forecast: Robust conditions to continue

Rich Wobbekind
Rich Wobbekind

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Robust economic conditions are expected to continue in Colorado in 2015 with increased hiring, sales and construction activity.  The only challenges could be labor shortages in some industry sectors and the effects of lower oil prices on energy production.

“The prosperity continues,” says Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business.

In fact, Colorado enjoys some of the most prosperous conditions since the late 1990s, he says.

The division compiles an annual business and economic outlook for Colorado with forecasts for 13 sectors. More than 100 business and government professionals contribute to the forecast.

The outlook for 2015 is especially upbeat, Wobbekind says. “Not only is the state’s economy solidly in positive territory, but it is ranking in the top five nationally for population growth, employment growth, wage and salary growth and personal income growth.”

With a net gain of 61,300 jobs projected for 2015, the statewide unemployment rate is expected to remain below 5 percent.

The biggest gain is forecast for professional and business services with an addition of 12,800 jobs. But the leisure and hospitality sector is expected to follow close behind with 11,200 jobs. The education and health services sector is projected to add 9,300 positions. Payrolls in the trade, transportation and utilities sector are expected to grow 9,100.

Employment in the construction sector will continue to rebound with the addition of 6,000 jobs.

With a low unemployment rate, labor shortages could occur in some sectors, in particular the construction sector, Wobbekind says. Labor shortages in turn could drive up wages, he says.

Retail sales in Colorado are expected to increase 7 percent in 2015, down slightly from what’s expected to be an 8 percent gain in 2014.

The dollar volume of construction in Colorado is expected to reach nearly $12 billion in 2014 and climb to $13.4 billion in 2015. The value of residential construction is projected to increase $900,000 in 2015 with 32,000 housing permits expected for the year. Increases in  the value of nonresidential construction and infrastructure also are anticipated.

Record-setting growth in the Colorado agricultural industry is expected to continue in 2015 with steady crop valuations and increasing livestock values.

The leisure and hospitality sector is expected to grow as well with increases in lodging and visits to public lands.

Denver International Airport, which served more than 52.5 million passengers in 2013, is expected to experience records in 2015.

The outlook for the energy industry is comparatively more cautious, Wobbekind says, because lower oil prices could slow growth. Natural gas prices are expected to remain low, he adds.

The Colorado population is expected to grow by 89,000 to about 5.4 million by July 2015.