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Colorado's employment, population growth expected to slow in 2018

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Colorado's employment and population growth will slow for a third consecutive year in 2018. The state will stay competitive in recruiting and every major sector will add jobs according to an economic outlook released by the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder.

The outlook features forecasts and trends for 13 key business sectors across Colorado, the population and the national economy. The 140-page report also breaks down economic trends for several regions across the state.

Overall, Colorado is projected to add 47,100 jobs in 2018, an increase of 1.8 percent, according to the forecast.

"The national unemployment numbers are low, but the state unemployment numbers are incredibly low," said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division.

The report outlines good news for workers as the low unemployment numbers should lead to increasing wages across a variety of sectors, he said.

The labor shortage may, however, lead businesses to replace workers with machines or other technology.

The population will grow 90,600, Wobbekind said. Most of that growth will come from people moving to Colorado.

Regional Economic Highlights

Boulder County: The area continues to outperform the state with a highly educated workforce, a high quality of life and a world-class research university.

Carson County: Low commodity prices and the prison closure put eastern Colorado in a difficult economic position. Farm conditions are stabilizing, but balance sheets will continue to be less than stellar. Tourism is a bright spot, with strong visitor numbers at the Colorado Welcome Center along Interstate 70.

La Plata County: Tech and the outdoor industry are doing well. The Southwest Colorado Accelerator for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE) is helping entrepreneurial ventures. Demand for construction and real estate will slowly provide a foundation for growth. Optimism among business leaders remains high, but underemployment is expected to continue.

Mesa County: Mesa County added as many people to its population in 2016 as it did in the five years between 2010 and 2015. Employment was nearly flat in 2017, but the business and economic outlook is trending upward. A declining unemployment rate, growing business diversification, and a strong real estate market position Mesa County for growth in 2018.

Northern Colorado: With a highly educated workforce and growing technology and entrepreneurship sectors, Weld and Larimer counties are more attractive than ever. Weld County continues to be a leader in agriculture production exports.

Pueblo: In 2017, the Pueblo area marked its lowest unemployment since 2000, at 3.5 percent. The aerospace, hemp, and rail industries set up the Pueblo area for further growth in 2018.

Southern Colorado: While Colorado Springs has traditionally lagged behind Denver and Boulder, that is no longer true. El Paso County added more than 10,000 jobs in the last year. Increased productivity is boosting the standard of living and the quality of life. The city is on track to outperform the nation in employment and wage increases. That should continue in 2018, making the region a smart choice for business growth and new investment.

For a hard copy of the outlook, contact Andrew Sorensen at andrew.sorensen@colorado.edu or 720-982-6878.

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