Published: Dec. 6, 2021 By

Employment in Colorado is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, according to the latest Colorado Business Economic Outlook (CBEO).

The yearly forecast is compiled by CU Boulder’s Leeds Business Research Division (BRD). The CBEO is the most comprehensive annual outlook on the Colorado economy, breaking down 11 business sectors and six regions around the state. 

The report was presented Monday both virtually and in person to state business leaders at the 57th annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum.

The CBEO projects Colorado will regain 73,900 jobs (2.7%) in 2021, effectively recouping total jobs lost due to the pandemic recession. However, key industries in the state, like leisure and hospitality, are projected to take longer to fully recover.

“We forecast employment numbers to grow in all 11 industries in 2022, but the hole left by the COVID-19 pandemic in the leisure and hospitality industry is huge,” said Richard Wobbekind, senior economist at the Leeds School of Business. “We don’t anticipate the leisure and hospitality industry to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or 2024.”

Despite ongoing challenges, the leisure and hospitality industry is projected to grow most in 2022, adding 31,700 jobs (10.4%).

The Natural resources and mining industry was also heavily impacted by the COVID-19 economic downturn, but is projected to add back jobs in 2022 for the first time in two years (600 jobs).

Construction boomed in 2021, particularly in Colorado’s housing industry, and that trend is expected to continue into 2022. Another 48,000 single family and multifamily residential units are projected to be added in the state in 2022, despite persistent headwinds. Those headwinds––particularly supply chain woes, inflation and labor shortages––are also expected to impact other industries in the state.

Other top drivers of growth in 2022 look to be manufacturing, data centers and hosting, biopharmaceuticals, aerospace and warehousing and storage.

Colorado’s population growth will start to pick up in 2022, adding an estimated 61,000 people, according to the State Demography Office. An estimated 40,000 will come from net in-migration.

Key industry 2022 forecast

The current conditions and forecasts of the following industries are included in the Colorado Business Economic Outlook. Please reference the report for full discussion of trends and description of each industry sector. A summary is available on page 144 of the CBEO.

Industry Job growth/loss Change from 2021
Natural resources and mining 600 3.0%
Construction 4,000 2.3%
Manufacturing 2,600 1.7%
Trade, transportation and utilities 4,900 1.0%
Information 600 0.7%
Financial activities 5,100 2.9%
Professional and business services 8,200 1.8%
Education and health services 5,900 1.7%
Leisure and hospitality 31,700 10.4%
Government 7,000 1.6%
Other services 3,300 3.0%

Agriculture (page 22): Cattle, grain, hay, dairy, hemp, nursery and floriculture

Natural resources and mining (page 27): Oil and gas, minerals and uranium, renewables, wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectric power and geothermal energy

Construction (page 37): Residential, nonresidential building and nonbuilding (infrastructure)

Manufacturing (page 42): Nondurable goods and durable goods, with a breakout section on cannabis

Trade, transportation and utilities (page 50): Wholesale and retail trade, warehousing and air travel and utilities

Information (page 60): Publishing (newspaper, books, directories and software), telecommunications, film, television and media

Financial activities (page 65): Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing

Professional and business services (page 86): Professional, scientific and technical services; management of companies; and waste management and remediation services

Education and health services (page 96): Private sector education services and health care, with sections on opioid addiction, county breakdowns on drug overdose deaths and health insurance coverage analysis across the state

Leisure and hospitality (page 103): National and statewide tourism trends, hotel supply, casinos, restaurants, parks and outdoor recreation

Other services (page 120): Includes trend overviews for 16,000 other businesses not well defined in other sectors, including religious, grantmaking, civic and professional organizations

Government (page 124): Includes federal, state and local budget and tax projections and analysis

International trade (page 134): Includes analysis of tariffs and macroeconomic factors