Job growth in Colorado outstrips earlier forecast

Colorado’s booming economy is on pace to add 15,000 more jobs than originally projected in 2018. That’s according to a new report from the Business Research Division of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The Colorado Business Economic Outlook, released in December, predicted 1.8 percent job growth, or 47,100 jobs across the Colorado economy. That forecast has been revised upward to 2.4 percent, or 62,600 new jobs by the end of the year.

Colorado boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, and is seeing increased labor-force participation, enabling employment growth to outpace declining net migration more than business leaders expected.

Natural resources and mining — which includes the oil-and-gas sector — is one industry that is leading the way in job growth.

“Employment growth there is much higher than we anticipated. It’s been very strong. Energy prices are obviously factoring into it,” Business Research Division executive director Richard Wobbekind said in a prepared statement.

Construction is also playing an unexpected role in Colorado’s reacceleration.

“It’s finally back to the same level of employment that they were at pre-recession,” Wobbekind said. “They are really mostly constrained by lack of available workforce.”

Colorado’s economic output is outstripping the rest of the nation as well, with state gross domestic product up nearly 4 percent.

Wobbekind expects that could be contributing to increased business optimism for the Colorado economy.

Agriculture, however, appears to be a soft spot heading into the second half of 2018.

Drought, wildfires and stubbornly low commodity prices are hampering growth. The latest corn prices are down more than 30 percent from five years ago.

Internationally, Colorado growers and meat-producers are facing pressure from trade wars and a strong U.S. dollar.

Combined, “it’s a tough road to hoe in some of the rural areas,” Wobbekind said.