Published: Dec. 6, 2015 By

Colorado employment will continue to expand in 2016, adding a variety of jobs in almost every business sector, but at a slower pace than in the previous two years, according to economist Richard Wobbekind of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

Wobbekind’s announcement is part of the 51st annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum to be presented Dec. 7 by the Leeds School’s Business Research Division.

The comprehensive outlook report for 2016 features forecasts and trends for 13 business sectors prepared by more than 100 key business, government and industry professionals.

“Colorado will remain one of the top growth states nationally in 2016,” said Wobbekind, who’s also the senior associate dean for academic programs at the Leeds School. “We benefit from being a very desirable state where people want to live and work, allowing us to attract top talent.”

Overall, the forecast calls for a gain of 65,100 jobs, or growth of 2.6 percent, in Colorado in 2016. All but the state’s natural resources and mining industry are predicted to grow in 2016, though the information industry will see only modest gains.

“Natural resources and mining primarily comprises the oil and gas industry in the state, as well as coal, molybdenum and other minerals,” said Wobbekind. “Overall, these sectors have been reacting to lower commodity prices that impact the feasibility of projects.”

The strongest sector for projected job growth in the report is the professional and business services sector, which is expected to add 15,500 jobs. Related to Colorado’s high-tech industries and research institutions, the state’s concentration of professional, scientific and technical services is 33 percent higher than the nation.

Other leading job growth sectors for 2016 include the education and health services sector, which is expected to add 10,900 jobs; and the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which is expected to add 10,800 jobs.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector encompasses wholesale and retail trade, as well as industries that provide transportation of passengers and cargo, including Denver International Airport and gas pipelines. Utilities also are in this sector.

The construction sector, one of the hardest hit sectors during the Great Recession, is expected to add 9,700 jobs in 2016. With household formation continuing to exceed available units and increases in nonresidential and infrastructure building, Colorado is poised to record the highest value of construction since 2006.

Colorado’s unemployment rate is expected to remain below 4 percent in 2016, which is comparatively better than the national unemployment rate.

“Colorado is now staring at full employment,” said Wobbekind. “With such a low unemployment rate and a decreasing labor participation rate, continued in-migration will be integral to supporting economic growth across the state.”

Colorado’s population is the fourth-fastest growing by percentage behind North Dakota, Nevada and Texas. The state’s population is projected to grow by about 95,000 people to a total of about 5.5 million people in 2016.

To view the entire economic outlook for Colorado in 2016 including other sectors, such as leisure and hospitality, agriculture, financial activities and government, visit the Business Research Division website.