The confidence of Colorado business leaders has increased slightly going into the first quarter of 2014 as economic conditions improve and some political issues have subsided, according to the most recent Leeds Business Confidence Index, or LBCI, released today by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.
The first quarter LBCI posted a reading of 59.9, an increase from 59.3 last quarter. Expectations measured positive -- at 50 or higher -- for all of the metrics measured by the index, which include the national economy, state economy, industry sales, industry profits, capital expenditures and hiring plans.
These across-the-board positive standings represent nine consecutive quarters of positive expectations, according to the Leeds School’s Business Research Division, which conducts the LBCI -- a report that’s now in its 10th year.
“The sustained confidence over the past several quarters now ties the record for optimism set from 2003 to 2005,” said economist Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Leeds School’s Business Research Division. “Strong signals from the market are keeping confidence up including the acceleration of GDP growth, employment gains and a federal budget compromise.”
While they remained in positive territory, the only expectations that fell going into the first quarter of 2014 were those of sales and profits. Business leaders’ sales expectations for the first quarter came in at 61.2, down from 62 for the fourth quarter of 2013, while the profits metric fell to 57.9, down from 59.3 last quarter.
Confidence in the national economy saw the greatest gain of 1.9 points to 57.4, up from 55.5 last quarter.
Confidence in the state economy increased to 64.8, up from 63.9 last quarter. It outpaces confidence in the national economy, which is a 35-quarter trend in the LBCI.
Despite a slight slip in sales and profits expectations, LBCI panelists indicated increased expectations for investments in labor and capital. The capital expenditures index measured 59 for the first quarter, up from 57.4 last quarter. The hiring plans index increased to 59.3, up from 57.8.
While Colorado employment figures vary greatly by industry, labor markets in all of the state’s metropolitan areas saw growth in November compared with a year earlier. The top three areas showing growth are the Greeley Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA, (+4.5 percent), the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield MSA (+2.5 percent) and the Boulder MSA (+1.5 percent).
Statewide, the biggest employment gains in November compared with the same month last year were in professional and business services, education and health services, and construction industries.
The Leeds School’s Business Research Division last month released its 49th annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook, which forecasted broad-based job growth in the state for 2014, at a forum attended by about 850 people.
More information about the LBCI, including the first-quarter report for 2014, is available at http://leeds.colorado.edu/brd#leedsbusinessconfidenceindex. For more information about the Leeds School’s Business Research Division visit http://leeds.colorado.edu/brd#overview.