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Colorado's Economic Outlook Part I - Population And Employment
Posted on:Friday, January 24, 2014

In early December, the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business released their Colorado Economic Outlook for 2014. The longest running forecast of the Colorado economy, the Leeds Economic Outlook is in its 49th year of publication, and provides some interesting (and uplifting) data about both the local and national economies. The report sheds some light on why, despite a nation-wide recession and government shutdown, as well as a local major natural disaster, Colorado continues to be one of the most prosperous states in the nation.

One of the factors allowing Colorado to stay ahead of the national curve is the notion that it’s just a great place to live – a notion that has kept U.S. Census population growth percentages in the double digits since 1950. Colorado is the 7th fastest growing state in the nation by percentage, adding 85,000 residents in 2013 and forecasted to add an additional 90,000 residents in 2014. According to a 2013 poll by Harris Interactive, Colorado is the 5th most desirable state in the nation.

And why not? Lifestyle and recreation benefits aside, either of which might be enough to draw prospective residents, Colorado’s state and municipal economies have made aggressive efforts to grow and diversify through the Colorado Blueprint program, spearheaded by the Colorado Office of Economic Development. Using a bottom-up approach, and based on six core objectives ranging from education to traditional branding, the program carries a self-stated mission of “creation and retention of jobs and expansion of companies across the state.”

These efforts resulted in Colorado adding 66,900 jobs last year, ranking it 4th in the nation for job growth. No industries lost jobs in 2013, and the year will go on record as having the fastest job growth in the last 10 years. The forecast for 2014 is an additional 61,000 jobs, plenty to cover the estimated 53,000 new residents the state will gain through migration. It’s also predicted that Colorado will sustain the sub-7% employment rate enjoyed in 2013 and residents will continue to earn 4.5%, on average, over their national counterparts. Job growth in 2014 will offer something for everybody, with business and professional services adding 14,000 jobs, construction adding 11,000 jobs, trade and transportation adding 9,000 jobs, education and health services adding 8,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality adding 8,000 jobs.

Though the favorable data in the Colorado Economic Outlook provide a hopeful picture for the state as whole, 83% of Colorado’s population lives in the 12 counties that make up the Front Range. It is the success of these counties, particularly Boulder and Denver, which has propelled Colorado to its current stature.

Boulder County has an incredibly diverse economy, partly due to the high concentration of businesses in new and emerging technologies. It has long been a favored location for start-ups and tech companies, has repeatedly outperformed the state and national economies in most areas of measurement, and has received national recognition for its business climate and lifestyle. In 2013 alone, Boulder was recognized as a top city for startups and innovation by esteemed publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and Inc. Forbes also named the city one of the Best Places for Business and Careers, and one of the Best Cities for Jobs. Luminosity dubbed Boulder one of the Smartest Cities in America and listed it in the Top 25 Brainiest Metros. asserts Boulder is the #2 Best Place to Live.

The continued strength of its economy, in addition to its extensive recreation opportunities, makes Boulder and its home state an ideal location for innovative minds and a talented work force. Major research facilities, a university that is home to four Nobel Laureates, and countless companies to recruit visionary entrepreneurs all contribute to the population influx that Colorado has experienced for over 50 years. Even better, the state has kept up with that migration, providing above-national-average paying jobs in all industry sectors and consistently besting the national unemployment rate. The best news, according to the Leeds Economic Outlook, is that trend will not reverse any time soon.

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