New economic forecast predicts big job growth for Colorado | SteamboatToday.com

New economic forecast predicts big job growth for Colorado

A "now hiring" banner waves in the wind Friday at The Lodge at Steamboat. Economists predict a swell in job growth in 2015.

— Economists from Denver to Steamboat Springs agree.

Colorado’s economic outlook for 2015 is looking rosy.

A recent economic forecast from the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business predicts the state will add 61,300 jobs next year and rank among the top 10 states for job growth.

The assessment, led by economist Rich Wobbekind, concludes that in terms of job growth, 2013, 2014 and 2015 will “be the three best years for the state since the start of the century.”

Wobbekind presented his positive outlook for the state’s economy earlier this month at the 50th annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum in Denver.

The forecast, which is full of data, predictions and a timeline showing job growth and decline in Colorado since 1950, predicts no industry in Colorado will lose jobs next year.

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It also predicts such things as an 11.5 percent rise in the value of construction, 2,300 additional jobs in the natural resources and mining industries and a significant jump in the number of jobs in the health care field.

Here in Steamboat Springs, economists also are optimistic about the coming year, albeit with a few reservations.

“I see more good things on the horizon for us than challenges,” local economist Scott Ford said. “You always go through ebbs and flows, and we’re on the rising tide of a particular wave.”

Ford said he keeps his eye on the consumer confidence index, which he said currently is stronger for consumers with some of the highest household incomes in the country.

Ford said these consumers typically represent Steamboat’s winter visitors and the higher confidence bodes well for the visitor side of Steamboat’s economy.

On the housing front, Ford said he’s noticed more sales of vacant land and that architects are getting busier.

“Not every drawing you put together turns into a home, but (architects) seem to be getting busier and usually it’s an indication that things are beginning to move,” Ford said.

Ford said challenges remain in the local economic picture.

He said the ongoing economic recovery is not as even as some of the recoveries the country and the region have seen in the past.

“There are families here who haven’t gotten back on their feet,” Ford said. “There are some who say a rising tide lifts all boats, but there are some boats that are perhaps heavily anchored with debt, and when the tide comes up, it sinks them.”

A tightening of the labor force also is presenting a challenge here in Steamboat.

On Wednesday, Yampa Valley Data Partners declared a labor shortage in Routt County in its Fast Facts publication.

The declaration is based on a statistical analysis that shows employment opportunities are out of balance with the work force. Routt County’s unemployment rate recently hit a seven-year low.

Ford concluded his recent assessment of the local economy with a caveat.

“Even if everything is humming on all eight cylinders up here, we belong to the national and global economy,” he said. “If things hiccup out there, it will impact us. If consumer confidence in the high end (of incomes) has a decline, we feel that. Enjoy the good times, weather the bad times and understand the economy here and nationally goes through cycles.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10