Aerial adventure

Grand Junction's Stocker Stadium is shown, at left, with adjacent Suplizio Field and Moyer Pool in Lincoln Park across the parking lot.

Any slow-down in economic growth in 2020 could be due to a lack of available workforce and a wait-and-see approach regarding the 2020 election. But there will still be growth.

At least that’s what Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division and associate dean for Business and Government Relations at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, told a room of roughly 150 professionals and business leaders in Grand Junction.

“Election years always bring uncertainty. Business likes to wait until things become clear,” Wobbekind said.

Wobbekind presented the Leeds School of Business’ 2020 Colorado Business Economic Outlook on Monday during a luncheon put on by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

In the state, Colorado has a tight labor market with its low unemployment rate, but Wobbekind still predicts the state will add roughly 40,000 jobs in 2020 after adding more than 51,000 in 2019.

Part of the slower growth is also attributed to the high number of baby boomers who will retire in 2020. Wobbekind noted that those jobs, when filled, don’t count toward the 40,000 job prediction.

Nationally, the low unemployment rate across the U.S. has left the country with the least amount of available labor in 50 years.

Consumer confidence also remains high even as business confidence has waned in the past year. In fact, the gap between consumer and business confidence is the largest in recorded history, Wobbekind said.

High consumer spending leads Wobbekind to believe that it would take something incredibly drastic for an economic downturn. “It’s hard to envision how that can happen with such low unemployment and people still spending,” he said.

On the business side, the coming election and some concern over trade deals and tariffs are among the chief concerns that drive down confidence.

“Trade and tariff issues create more uncertainty and businesses hate uncertainty,” he said.

In Mesa County, Wobbekind reported that the Grand Junction metropolitan area has the fastest growing housing prices in the state. In the agriculture industry, Wobbekind said that his 2018 predictions for this year were wrong. Agriculture posted a strong 2019 and Wobbekind feels the industry should perform well again in 2020.

Area income has also risen beyond pre-recession numbers with a median income of $44,431, but still trails the state number of more than $58,000.

Natural gas prices remain low, which hurts the industry, but the diversification of the Mesa County economy is much stronger today than it was several years ago, Wobbekind said, noting that the Front Range is starting to notice how much the Grand Valley is thriving.

“This is the reason why diversification of the economy is so important,” he said.

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