Forecast: Prospects generally bright in area

BOULDER – The region is expected to recover from the current national recession faster than will the state or nation, based on growth figures in employment, wages and construction, according to Richard Wobbekind, economist at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

However, federal “fiscal cliff” discussions about the national budget could dampen the region’s comeback, Wobbekind said at an annual economic forecast event Wednesday night sponsored by the Boulder Economic Council, an arm of the Boulder Chamber. A federal budget-cut process called “sequestration” could affect local federal laboratory budgets and others that rely on federal funding, according to Wobbekind and Tom Clark, chief executive of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. who also spoke at the event.

“We should all be pressing our elected officials to do the right thing,” Wobbekind said.

Specifically, the federal budget discussion still includes $2.6 billion in cuts to create a balanced budget, Wobbekind said. Those cuts could come from increasing enrollment ages for Medicare and cutting Social Security amounts, but also from places such as defense, Wobbekind said. If the federal budget process is not wrapped up by March 31, the government could shut down completely, Wobbekind said.

The local economic picture remains bright, however. Boulder’s construction permit numbers in 2012 were the highest in a decade, Wobbekind said. Boulder’s per capita personal income is $50,000. Unemployment numbers continue to drop along the Front Range, Wobbekind said.

“You’re seeing people be pretty optimistic about the environment they’re operating in,” Wobbekind said. “I don’t want to over-paint the picture; we still have a lot of unemployment, but we’re recovering rapidly.”

Colorado is one of the top 10 states for growth, with projections for about 42,000 new jobs in 2013, Wobbekind said. Industries such as energy and agriculture are driving the growth, he said.

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