The 2018 Colorado Economic Forecast – Call it Steady

The best description of the 2018 Colorado economic forecast is steady.

After adding jobs at a rate of 2.2% in both 2016 and 2017, Colorado will add jobs at a rate of 2.0% in 2018. Given all the moving pieces in an economy, that is steady!

Watch for the following on Colorado’s economic front in the coming months.

  • Colorado will benefit from stable global and U.S. real GDP growth.
    Net migration will be comparable to the last two years.
  • The Colorado inflation rate will increase; it will be about a point greater than the U.S. rate.
  • The Colorado economy is not operating efficiently because the unemployment rate is too low.
  • The Colorado real GDP growth rate will be greater than the U.S. rate and will be driven by health care, real estate, and the extractive industries.
  • The state’s economic growth would be slowed if the Fed Funds rate is increased 3 times in 2018.
  • Manufacturing growth will be driven by a handful of larger companies.
  • Retail trade is evolving. Retail sales will remain strong. 
  • The 2018 legislative session will be dicey as legislators struggle to address social issues, congestion, transportation issues, the state pension fund, and how much funding should be allocated to education.
  • The state’s information sector is quietly evolving; there will be minimal job growth, but high value added.
  • The growth of the state will be constrained by the lack of workers to complete construction projects.
  • There are three economies in Colorado – Front Range, micropolitan areas such as Durango, and rural Colorado. It is an understatement to say that many rural counties are significantly challenged.
  • Amazing things are happening at DIA and the area surrounding it – Welcome Gaylord!
  • The lack of snow in December and early January has left its mark on the state’s ski areas. It would be worse if they had not invested in snowmaking.

There will be ups and downs, but 2018 will be a good year! It will be steady!

For more details about the Colorado economy check out the 2018 Colorado economic forecast on this website.

Colorado Job Growth Holds Steady

In early March the Bureau of Labor Statistics released revised employment data for Colorado showing that 2014 was the 3rd strongest year of job growth in the state’s history and 2015 was ranked 9th.

Data released near the end of March shows that average year-over-year Colorado job growth for the past seven months has been about 67,000 jobs greater than the previous 12-month period. The reduced rate of expansion has occurred for the following reasons:
• The slowdown in the Chinese economy has caused many countries to experience lower rates of GDP growth.
• Colorado’s extractive industries are continuing to contract.
• Just as the Broncos can’t win the Super Bowl every year, it is not possible to have “Super-Bowl-like” job growth all the time.

Although the rate of growth for employment and the GDP are less than last year, the economy will still experience solid growth for the following reasons:
• There is solid GDP growth across most Colorado sectors.
• Job growth is stable in most industries and occupations.
• Solid and diverse growth will continue in the state’s personal income, population, and per capita personal income.
• There is a strong outlook for the construction industry in Colorado and the U.S.
• Robust new car sales are a reflection of solid personal consumption.
• There is increased activity at DIA and the area surrounding the airport.
• While low unemployment can be problematic it will drive higher wages.
• Higher wages will cause increased consumption and offset higher living costs.

Despite the headwinds, Colorado is on track for continued solid growth in 2016. For more details check out the most recent updates by clicking here or check out Colorado Economic 2016 Forecast.

Colorado Job Growth

Colorado Employment Increases by 13,000 jobs in October – Really?

On Friday November 20th, the BLS released wage and salary employment data for the states. The seasonally adjusted data indicated that Colorado employment increased by 13,000 jobs last month.

This is in sharp contrast to the previous three months. The data for July showed a gain of 600 jobs; an increase of 1,600 workers was posted in August, and a decline of 1,600 jobs showed up in September.

If these numbers prove to be accurate, it is reasonable to raise the question: Which is the anomaly – the posted employment for July through September or the employment for October?

The non-seasonally adjusted data shows the Colorado employment continues to post solid job growth. Approximately 59,700 jobs will be added this year.

Colorado employment

The state’s job growth is led by the health care, construction, and accommodations and food services industries. There are fears that construction growth will be constrained by the lack of trained workers.

In addition, all of the state’s MSAs have shown solid to strong job growth. Local governments are continuing to spend and the state government is offering more tax incentives to out-of-state companies to move to Colorado.

A review of the top news stories for the past month echoes the sentiment of state leaders (Office of state Planning and Budgeting and Colorado Legislative Council) who say that the economy is on solid footing.

A majority of the coverage about the economy is very positive, however, there is one story that is unsettling. Union Pacific is laying off workers in Denver and BNSF is following suit in other states. While there is reason to be concerned about the individuals who are furloughed or laid off, there is greater concern because the railroads are facing decreased demand for shipments (coal, oil, agriculture products, and industrial products). This suggests there may be something fundamentally wrong with the overall economy, i.e. manufacturing may be woefully weak.

Another note of concern, the state of Colorado is expected to take in record levels of revenue, yet it will experience a budget shortfall for a variety of reasons beyond the control of state legislators. Special interest groups are addressing this issue, but there is limited interest in their efforts.

The bottom line is the Colorado economy is on solid footing, at least for the moment.


Expect Solid Job Growth in Upcoming BLS State Release

On Friday November 20th, the BLS will release the state wage and salary employment data through October. In light of the release of U.S. employment earlier this month, the state data is likely to show solid job growth in most cases. This brief overview of the national economy sets the tone for the upcoming release of the Colorado data.

The U.S. Economy
In a nutshell, some of the top reasons to feel upbeat about the U.S. economy are:
• U.S. Consumer Sentiment is up as measured by the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey.
• There was strong U.S. job growth for October – 271,000 jobs were added.
• The U.S. unemployment rate continues to decline. Theoretically, the U.S. is at or near full employment and the economy is operating efficiently.
• The ISM Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index is strong.
• Construction spending continues to be strong.
• Many companies are cash rich and they are strategically expanding through mergers and acquisitions.
• Inflation remains low.

Turbulence – Concerns That we Have Come to Grips With
There are always reasons for people to feel jittery about the economy.
• Since 2010 there have been concerns that the Greek debt crisis would unravel the EU. Those concerns reappeared earlier this year, but have subsided.
• There are worries that the slowdown in the growth rate for the Chinese economy and the impact it will have on their immediate trading partners will cause a downturn in the global economy. This is less of an issue than it was several months ago
• The summer volatility in the equity markets has subsided. The VIX has dropped from almost 41 in late August to about 17 on November 19th. Much of the lost ground has been regained. For example, the S&P 500 closed at 2,081 on November 19th, up from 1,868 in late August.
• The inaction of the Fed to raise interest rates is reminiscent of a shy high school boy who is smitten with his first girl friend. He keeps thinking, “Is now the right time for me to kiss her.” And she is thinking, “He must not like me because he won’t kiss me.” While many agree that a rate increase is long overdue, the issue is the timing of that increase – just like that first kiss. Now is the time.

Turbulence – Areas that Continue to Make us Uneasy
Terrorism and the price of oil are areas that cause everyone to toss and turn at night.
• It is unlikely we will ever get used to the “sick-in-your-stomach feeling” caused by ISIS and other terrorist groups. Their direct impact is psychological. Indirectly, consumers will be more cautious and businesses will be obligated to spend more on security.
• For over a year now, the price of oil has disrupted the economies in Tier I oil producing states. In some states such as Colorado, production has remained strong; however, it will likely drop off as there is a glut of oil and a lack of storage facilities. Problems in the industry could be exacerbated by further declines in the price for a barrel of oil caused by the glut. Some industry experts project oil could drop to $20 per barrel.

Other National Concerns
Holiday retail sales are projected to increase by 3.5% to 4.0% compared to last year and online sales will be double that amount. This is solid growth, but is an issue only in the sense that it is not stronger.

The major concern about the U.S. economy is the manufacturing sector. The ISM manufacturing index has trended downward since August 2014 and has been near 50 for the past two months. Purchasing managers are ambivalent about the level of growth in their companies. At the moment the industry appears to be on the verge of a downturn.

Concluding Thought
With this as a background, Coloradans should expect the upcoming BLS report to say that job growth will be much stronger than recent months.

U.S. Employment Shows Strong Gain in October

On November 6th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly update for U.S. nonfarm payroll employment. The number of seasonally adjusted jobs increased by 271,000 in October. Over the previous 12 months, employment has increased by an average of 230,000 workers per month. That equates to 2.8 million per year.

The unemployment rate was down from 5.7% to 5.0% a year ago and 5.1% in the previous month. The number of unemployed persons was down from million a year ago to 7.9 million in October.

The areas with the largest increases were professional and business services (PBS), health care, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction.
• Employment in the PBS Sector increased by 78,000 in October, compared with an average gain of 52,000 per month over the prior 12 months.
• Health care employment increased by 45,000 jobs in October. Over the past year, health care has added about 41,200 jobs per month, or slightly less than a half million jobs for the year. About 27,000 jobs were added in ambulatory health care services and 18,000 in hospitals.
• The number of retail trade jobs increased by 44,000 in October. This is well above the average monthly gain of 25,000 jobs for the past 12 months. In October about 20,000 were added in clothing and accessories stores, 11,000 were added in general merchandise stores and 6,000 were added in automobile dealerships.
• About 42,000 workers were added in food services and drinking places in October. For the past year the monthly average has been about 31,000.
• Finally, construction employment rose by 31,000 in October. This is slightly higher than previous months. About two-thirds of the October growth was in nonresidential specialty trade contractors.

On the down side, mining employment fell by 5000 workers. The sector peaked in December 2014 and has since shed 109,000 jobs.

Employment in other major industries was similar to the prior month.
It was encouraging to see this level of job gains. Next month, we will learn whether the level of October employment was a “one hit wonder” or a reversal of the downward trend that has been taking place since the second quarter.

Colorado’s October Job Growth Reverses Downward Trend

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 2015 wage and salary job growth continues to be positive, but it is increasing at a decreasing rate. Through the first nine months Colorado employment is 61,000 jobs greater than the same period last year.

During Q1 job growth was 75,000 greater than the same period a year ago. It dropped significantly during Q2 – 60,100 greater than Q2 2014. Q3 2015 job growth was only 47,700 greater than Q3 2014.

After declining for six months (March through August), employment increased from 42,100 in August to 42,400 in September.

About 76.2% of total jobs added were in the top five sectors:
Health Care 13,800
Accommodations and Food Services 12,300
Construction 11,500
Professional and Scientific 5,200
Manufacturing 3,600

Approximately 23.8% of all jobs added were in Leisure and Hospitality (AFS + AER). This sector touches all Colorado counties.

About 10.8% of total jobs added were in the PST, Manufacturing, and Information Sectors. These sectors are the source of primary and advanced technology jobs.

Colorado is projected to add 73,000 to 79,000 jobs in 2015, a gain of 3.0% to 3.2%. As mentioned earlier Colorado is on track to add 61,000 jobs this year.

CDLE/LMI has projected that a significant upward adjustment will be made to the Q4 2014 data and data for the first four months of 2015. These revisions will be made in March 2016. Total employment for 2015 should be at the lower end of the range of 73,000 to 79,000. This is the level of job growth forecasted by for 2015.

The good news is the downward trend in the number of jobs added may have been reversed in October. We will learn more next month and in March 2016 when the 2015 data is revised.

Wage and Salary Job Growth


U.S. Posts Weak Job Growth in September

On October 2nd the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly update for U.S. nonfarm payroll employment. The number of seasonally adjusted jobs increased by a meager 142,000 workers in September.

Despite the weak job growth in September, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.1% and is likely to continue on a downward trend for the remainder of the year.

For the month of September job growth occurred in five major areas.

• Health care added 34,000 jobs in September. This is slightly below the average increase of 38,000 jobs per month over the prior 12 months. About 16,000 jobs were added in hospitals and another 13,000 in ambulatory health care services.

• Employment in information rose by 12,000 in September. The sector has about 44,000 more workers than a year ago.

• During September professional and business services added 31,000 jobs. This is well below the average of 45,000 per month so far this year. By comparison, the sector increased by an average of 59,000 in 2014. Notable job gains occurred in computer systems design and legal services. Because many companies in this sector are a part of the country’s advanced technology cluster, there are concerns that growth is not stronger.

• Retail trade employment rose by 24,000 in September. This is slightly less than the average monthly gain of 27,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Notable gains were in general merchandise stores and automobile dealers.

• Employment in food services and drinking places added 21,000 workers in September, well below the monthly average of 29,100 workers.

Once again, mining employment dropped sharply, this time a decrease of 10,000 workers. Most of the lost jobs were in support activities. Lower prices for a barrel of oil is taking a toll on the industry.

Employment in other major industries was similar to previous months.

Two things are unsettling about the employment report for September:
•The level of job growth is weak.
• The quality of jobs are weak. While it is great that people are finding work, many of the jobs have lower than average wages.

Time will tell whether the economy has headed south or if it has hit a bump in the road.

Colorado Job Growth is Solid – The Sky is Not Falling

There has been a streak of bad economic news within the past ten days; however, the fundamentals of the U.S. and Colorado economies are solid and the sky is not falling!

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced the release of data showing that on average there are 65,900 more jobs for the first seven months of 2015 than the same period in 2014. The rate of increase is about 2.7%. While this level of job growth is solid, activity on the streets is much stronger.

Internationally, concerns have temporarily shifted away from violence in the Middle East. Worries have shifted to a slowdown in the economic growth of China, the magnitude of that slowdown, and the impact it would have on the global economy.Job Growth - The Sky is Not Falling

Earlier declines in the price of oil have not had the negative impact on the state that was initially expected by some economists. Colorado is a second tier state in terms of production and companies have taken numerous steps to increase their efficiency and maintain their profitability. Layoffs in the industry may be inevitable if the price for a barrel of oil remains at its current level, in the low $40s, for an extended period.

Through seven months average employment in the extractive industries is about 700 greater than last year. That number will approach zero by the end of the year.

The recent volatility in the equity markets may be the sign of a long-overdue correction or the start of a bear market. Uncertainty in the equities market may cause consumers to remain cautious.

On a more positive note, Colorado new car registrations have been strong this year. On a YTD basis, more new cars have been registered in 2015; however, the rate of growth has slowed to about 5.0% this year, down from 11.2% growth in 2013, and 6.5% growth last year.

Net migration remains strong as people find Colorado an attractive place to live, work, and play. In part that is a driving factor for the construction industry.

On a year-to-date basis the top sectors for job growth are:
• Healthcare 14,000
• Accommodations and Food Services 13,200
• Construction 12,100

Combined these three sectors account for about 59.6% of the jobs added or 39,300 workers. Average wages for many of the occupations in these industries are well-below the state average.

There are concerns that an insufficient number of primary jobs are being added in Colorado. Primary jobs are important because they bring in money from the outside that is invested in the state economy. In addition, primary employers often have a local supply chain that supports the local economy.

To that point, the average number of manufacturing jobs is 3,900 greater than a year ago. Many of these workers have been added in the renewable energy sector and its supply chain and they are located in Weld County. The addition of new jobs in this area will offset job losses associated with the decline in the price of oil.

So far this year, the major disappointment is the Information Sector. Declines are expected to continue through the end of the year.

On a year-to-date basis, the Government sector has added about 4,900 jobs. On a percentage basis, the greatest number of jobs has been added in K-12 and higher education. After seeing cutbacks for two years, the Federal Government is on track to add about 400 positions this year.

In addition to this data, CDLE will release a report later this month showing that Colorado job growth for the first quarter may be revised upward by 15,000 to 20,000. The bottom line is that Colorado’s employment is  much stronger than currently being reported.  Unequivocally, the sky Is not falling.

Colorado Job Growth Continues to be Solid in April

BLS recently released April wage and salary employment data for Colorado. The job growth is softer than expected given the strength of the U.S. jobs numbers, projected improvement in the growth of the economy (GDP), and the outlook of purchasing managers as measured by the ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing indices. Given the strength of the U.S. employment data, it seems reasonable for the state to be ahead of last year by 70,000 to 75,000 jobs, even with the slight decreases in the state oil and gas industry.

job growth

In April there were 34,400 jobs (NSA) in the Mining and Logging Sector. This is down about 1,300 jobs from December, 2014 but about 1,800 jobs above the April 2014 total. The sector had record employment this past December.

Looking beyond the oil and gas industries we see that about two-thirds of the job growth this year has been in Health Care; Accommodations and Food Services; Construction; Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (PST); and Manufacturing.

Approximately 21% of all jobs added were in Leisure and Hospitality. The tourism industry is important to all 64 counties in the state. Colorado had a strong ski season and is poised to have a strong summer season.

About 10% of total jobs added were in the PST, Manufacturing, and Information sectors. These sectors are the source of primary and advanced technology jobs. Primary jobs attract wealth from outside the state that is spent locally, they export a significant portion of their goods and services, and they often pay wages that are much greater than the state average.

Probably the hottest topic on the economic front has been the price of housing and rentals. The Case Shiller Home Price Index for Denver indicates that home prices increased by 10.0% over the past year and 1.4% on a month-over-month basis. Rentals have risen at slightly lower rates.

The comparative strength of the Colorado economy over the past five years has caused labor shortages in key occupations, i.e. it is necessary to attract talent from outside Colorado. Out-of -state workers from some parts of the country will experience sticker shock when they look at home prices in the metro area.

On a positive note, increased appreciation in home prices increases the “paper wealth” of individuals. This will cause home owners and landlords to remain confident in the economy and willing to spend money. The increase in prices, and ultimately property taxes, is a two-edged sword. Property owners don’t like the increase, but schools and local governments will see an increase in funding.

At the moment the increase in housing prices does not appear to have deterred job growth. Stay tuned – that may change! It will continue to be an interesting year for the Colorado economy.

Colorado Economy Remains on Solid Footing

The most recent data release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the Colorado economy remains on solid footing.

The unemployment rate dropped from 6.2% a year ago to 4.0% this year. That sharp of a drop produces significant shock within the system, more so than when the change is more gradual.

With that sharp of decline, it becomes difficult to find workers in some occupations. That difficulty will be accentuated by a sense of urgency to find workers. As well, more industries will face upward wage pressures. That is good for workers, but will cut into the bottom line of companies.

The recent jobs data is another indicator the Colorado economy is continuing to grow at a steady pace. For all practical purposes, it is meaningless to talk about the December numbers. When BLS makes their annual revisions in March, it is likely the number of Colorado jobs will be revised upwards.

The U.S. economy is solid which bodes well for Colorado. New car sales have returned to pre-recession levels, real GDP will be stronger this year both globally and for the U.S., the U.S. should add more than 2.6 million jobs this year (and Colorado should be at least 2.7% of that total), government spending will be stronger, and purchasing managers in manufacturing and service companies are optimistic.

In Colorado, BLS data will show that the number of establishments increased at a greater rate than in 2013. If there are more businesses there are more potential job opportunities for workers.

In 2015 about 60% of job growth will be in construction; health care; accommodations and food services; retail trade; and professional and technical services.

Admittedly, the price of oil will have an effect on the rate of job growth in 2015; however, at a statewide level, most of the top sectors will show steady growth unless the price of oil stays low for an extended period.

The steady growth that is currently occurring in the Colorado economy is much easier to manage and deal with than the rapid growth the state experienced during the 1990s.