State economic report strong
Albeit small, the Grand Valley saw some employment growth by the middle of the second quarter of this year, according to the Leeds Business Confidence Index released on Friday.
As of May, the Grand Junction metropolitan statistical area posted a 0.3 percent growth, the smallest of the state’s seven metro areas.
While that’s good news in that the area didn’t show a negative rate, it’s a far cry from growth in other areas of the state, such as the 4.7 percent increase in the Fort Collins-Loveland area.
Experts at the Leeds Business School at the University of Colorado said much of the growth statewide — Colorado boasts the fifth fastest rate in the nation — is attributed to a relatively strong confidence level among employers, and bodes well for the rest of the year.
“Heading into the second half of 2017, the business outlook still remains strong despite reported concerns about Colorado’s talent shortage and infrastructure needs,” said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Leeds Business Research Division, which published the report. “We will be keeping a close eye on employment, wages and housing in the second half of 2017.”
The report shows that statewide business leaders said they were “feeling positive” about the general direction of the state’s economy, but were concerned that low unemployment rates could hamper their ability to find qualified workers, thus slowing their ability to expand.
Business leaders also were concerned that high housing prices, mostly on the Front Range, was another negative factor in their ability to attract out-of-state workers.
Statewide, the largest year-over-year employment gains were in the leisure and hospitality sectors, while the mining and manufacturing sectors recorded losses over the same period last year, the report said.
“In an open-ended question, (Leeds) panelists were asked to indicate, in rank order, the three main headwinds facing the economy,” the report said. “According to respondents, the top problem facing the Colorado economy is labor issues. With historically low unemployment rates, employers are finding it difficult to hire new employees to fill vacant or new positions.”
Respondents suggested that one way to combat that was for the state to focus on talent attraction and development.
In addition to concerns about available and affordable housing, respondents also said they didn’t believe the state was focusing enough on infrastructure funding.
A bill approved by the Colorado Legislature earlier this year, however, will address some of that. It will make available about $1.8 billion for transportation projects and about $114 million for capital construction over the next five years.