Published: Aug. 13, 2020 By
A Denver business closed during the COVID lockdown.

A Denver business closed during the COVID lockdown (Andrew Sorensen/CU Boulder).

The Colorado economy will lose thousands of jobs in 2020, according to a new report from the Leeds Business Research Division at the CU Boulder. 

The annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook (CBEO) released in December originally predicted the state would add 40,100 jobs this year. The annual midyear update revises that number to a loss of 128,500 jobs (-4.6%) for the year. 

Though job growth slowed early in the year, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the outlook for nearly every major industry across Colorado. 

“We have no context, nationally or in Colorado, in which to assess this magnitude of economic devastation,” said Richard Wobbekind, senior economist and faculty director of the Leeds Business Research Division. “We can try and compare it to the Great Recession, but the numbers are orders of magnitude different.  We never shut the economy down before.”

While many sectors of the Colorado economy have improved since the height of the COVID-19 shutdown in March and April, many industries are expected to finish the year with negative jobs numbers.

The leisure and hospitality sector is projected to be the most impacted, losing 76,700 jobs in 2020 (-22.3%). The trade, transportation and utilities sector—which includes retail trade and the airline industry—is projected to lose 13,000 jobs (-2.7%). 

Professional and business services are projected to have the lowest jobs decline (0.2%).

Not all areas of Colorado have been impacted evenly. The Fort Collins metropolitan statistical area had the lowest unemployment in the state in June at 9.2%. The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area had the highest unemployment at 11%. The unemployment rate has improved since it hit record highs this spring.

“While the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have set many records, we have also been surprised by the rebound in some areas of the economy,” said Brian Lewandowski, executive director of the Leeds Business Research Division.

Colorado’s population, another figure tracked by the annual CBEO midyear update, is projected to slow with fewer people moving here, lower birth numbers, and increased deaths in the face of COVID-19. The state is still expected to top 5.8 million people this year. The report notes people and firms in areas of the country harder hit by the pandemic could have an increased interest in relocating to Colorado in the future.