Published: Jan. 3, 2017 By

A worker is seen with a long pole, painting a flagpole in downtown Denver.

A worker spruces up a flagpole in downtown Denver with a fresh coat of paint. (iStock)

The optimism of Colorado business leaders has sharply rebounded ahead of the first quarter of 2017, according to a CU Boulder report by the Leeds School of Business.

Released today, the Leeds Business Confidence Index is at 60.3 points overall, which means expectations are up 7.3 points from last quarter and up 4.9 points from the first quarter of 2016, or year-over-year.

Business leaders’ economic concerns regarding the election, political climate and government regulation have abated, said economist Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Leeds School’s Business Research Division, which conducts the quarterly index via panelist responses to a survey.

“We thought one way or the other, the election would be enough to sort of stabilize business expectations and give them the operating environment they needed going forward,” Wobbekind said. “They not only got that, but they got the announcement of lower corporate tax rates and more attempts to deal with regulatory policy.”

The index measures business confidence – with 50 points or higher representing positive territory – in the state economy, industry sales, industry profits, capital expenditures, hiring plans and the national economy. The current readings represent 22 consecutive quarters of positive expectations.

Sector-by-sector highlights heading into the first quarter of 2017 are:

  • State economy confidence is up several points at 62.8 compared with 57.5 ahead of the fourth quarter of 2016;
  • National economy confidence increased markedly to 61.3 compared with 48.2 ahead of the fourth quarter, representing the smallest confidence gap between the national and state economies since the end of 2009;
  • Profits confidence is sharply up to 59.4 compared with 52.2 ahead of the third quarter;
  • Sales confidence has increased to 59.8 compared with 55.3 ahead of the fourth quarter;
  • Capital expenditures confidence drastically rose to 59.1 compared with 51.7 ahead of the fourth quarter;
  • Hiring confidence is up at 59.5 points compared with 53.2 ahead of the fourth quarter.

Colorado’s unemployment level, which remains lower than the national level, decreased to 3.2 percent in November (down from 3.8 percent in August). The state rate compares with a national unemployment rate in November of 4.6 percent.

Year-over-year employment growth in November was recorded for all seven of Colorado’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). The Boulder and the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood MSAs show the fastest growth at 3.9 and 3.1 percent, respectively. The Grand Junction MSA is at the lowest end of growth at .3 percent

Statewide the biggest employment industry gains as of November 2016 compared with November 2015 are in the construction (8.3 percent), education and health services (4.9 percent), and leisure and hospitality (3.1 percent) sectors. Mining and manufacturing both recorded job losses in November, year-over-year.

Visit the Leeds School’s Business Research Division publications page for the complete first quarter report and more information.