Published: Dec. 11, 2017 By
Colorado State Capitol

Colorado’s employment and population growth will slow for a third consecutive year in 2018. The state will stay competitive in recruiting, and every major sector will add jobs, according to an economic outlook released Monday by the Business Research Division at the Leeds School of Business.

This information was presented during the 53rd annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum at the Grand Hyatt Denver. More than 1,000 business and civic leaders planned to attend.

The outlook features forecasts and trends for 13 key business sectors across Colorado, the population and the national economy. The 140-page report also breaks down economic trends for several regions across the state. Overall, Colorado is projected to add 47,100 jobs in 2018, an increase of 1.8 percent, according to the forecast. 

“The national unemployment numbers are low, but the state unemployment numbers are incredibly low,” said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division.

Key takeaways
  • Employers will continue to deal with a talent shortage.
  • Employment and population will grow, but more slowly than in 2016 and 2017.
  • Colorado will remain in the top 10 states for employment growth.
  • Read the complete report.
  • Learn more about the Business Research Division.

The report outlines good news for workers as the low unemployment numbers should lead to increasing wages across a variety of sectors, he said. The labor shortage may, however, lead businesses to replace workers with machines or other technology, according to the report. The population will grow by 90,600, Wobbekind said. Most of that growth will come from people moving to Colorado.  

Regional economic highlights

Boulder County The area continues to outperform the state with a highly educated workforce, a high quality of life and a world-class research university.

Kit Carson County Low commodity prices and the prison closure put eastern Colorado in a difficult economic position. Farm conditions are stabilizing, but balance sheets will continue to be less than stellar. Tourism is a bright spot, with strong visitor numbers at the Colorado Welcome Center along Interstate 70.

La Plata County Tech and the outdoor industry are doing well. The Southwest Colorado Accelerator for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE) is helping entrepreneurial ventures. Demand for construction and real estate will slowly provide a foundation for growth. Optimism among business leaders remains high, but underemployment is expected to continue. 

Mesa County Mesa County added as many people to its population in 2016 as it did in the five years between 2010 and 2015. Employment was nearly flat in 2017, but the business and economic outlook is trending upward. A declining unemployment rate, growing business diversification, and a strong real estate market position Mesa County for growth in 2018.

Northern Colorado With a highly educated workforce and growing technology and entrepreneurship sectors, Weld and Larimer counties are more attractive than ever. Weld County continues to be a leader in agriculture production exports.

Pueblo In 2017, the Pueblo area marked its lowest unemployment since 2000, at 3.5 percent. The aerospace, hemp, and rail industries set up the Pueblo area for further growth in 2018.

Southern Colorado While Colorado Springs has traditionally lagged behind Denver and Boulder, that is no longer true. El Paso County added more than 10,000 jobs in the last year. Increased productivity is boosting the standard of living and the quality of life. The city is on track to outperform the nation in employment and wage increases. That should continue in 2018, making the region a smart choice for business growth and new investment.

Key industry growth forecasts

Construction 1.5 percent growth; 2,500 jobs

Education and health services 2.5 percent growth; 8,400 jobs

Financial activities 1.2 percent growth; 2,000 jobs

Government 1.1 percent growth; 4,600 jobs

Information 0.4 percent growth; 300 jobs

Leisure and hospitality 1.9 percent growth; 6,200 jobs

Manufacturing 1.1 percent growth; 1,600 jobs

Natural resources and mining 4.4 percent growth; 1,100 jobs

Professional and business services 2.4 percent growth; 10,000 jobs

Trade, transportation and utilities 1.9 percent growth; 8,700 jobs

Other services 1.6 percent growth; 1,700 jobs

Total 1.8 percent growth; 47,100 jobs