Region back to prerecession job levels

BOULDER — The Boulder region is back to prerecession employment levels and wages are the highest ever, according to Richard Wobbekind, economist at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

The Denver/Boulder metropolitan statistical area employment is at 1,419,800 jobs in December 2012, 0.6 percent below its previous peak in April 2008, based on preliminary data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to Brian Lewandowski, a research associate in the business research division at the Leeds School.

Peak employment in the region was 1,428,600 jobs in April 2008, Lewandowski said. The region followed the nation during the recession, with employment falling to 1,341,500 jobs in January 2010, a 6.1 percent drop.

Because of the job recovery statistics and others in wages and construction, the region is expected to recover from the current national recession faster than will the state or nation, Wobbekind predicts.

For example, manufacturing and technical services sectors in the region make up 14 percent of all wages, Wobbekind said, and both remain strong. When it comes to employment growth, the number of health-care and social services jobs rose 12 percent recently, he said.

However, federal “fiscal cliff” discussions about the national budget could dampen the region’s comeback, Wobbekind said at an annual economic forecast event Jan. 16, 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.

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, he said, and unemployment numbers continue to drop along the Front Range.

“You’re seeing people be pretty optimistic about the environment they’re operating in,” Wobbekind said.

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