Colorado economy Remains Strong, with Room to Grow
Colorado Springs is the latest Colorado city to report strong employment figures and one of the best economic outlooks in over a decade.
Colorado Springs is the latest Colorado city to report strong employment figures and one of the best economic outlooks in over a decade. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported on payroll information released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics March 14, which indicated that the metropolitan areaadded around 7,400 jobs in 2015. According to the Gazette, that's the highest year-over-year job growth since 2000, and most experts agree that the trend will continue throughout the state.
Colorado Springs' 2015 employment numbers are doubly surprising given the fact that they are higher than initial estimates. At a 3.2 percent growth rate in payroll numbers, 2015 was even better than what the BLS expected based on monthly surveys. The figure is a full percentage point higher than the rate recorded in 2014. Colorado as a whole also saw more job growth than anticipated, with the BLS recording a 3.1 percent increase on the whole.
"Employment numbers remain strong throughout much of Colorado."
The statistics show that Colorado Springs is also working to alleviate underemployment, which has plagued much of the U.S. job market in the wake of the 2008 recession. Underemployment generally refers to the number of workers who are employed but are not making enough to support themselves financially. This typically takes the form of workers stuck in part-time or freelance positions when they have been seeking full-time work. The BLS found that underemployment in the Colorado Springs area was down to 3.4 percent in January 2016, the lowest level since April 2001. The unemployment rate of the city was recorded at 5.1 percent, roughly equivalent to the national average.
The vibrant economy of Colorado Springs is just one piece of the strong showing by the state in final 2015 employment numbers, which painted Colorado as a leader in an already strong national economy. Of particular note was Colorado's booming tech sector, which added more than 3,000 jobs and contributed approximately $20 billion to the state's economy, according to the Denver Business Journal. The tech sector's benefit to the economy is reciprocal, as employers in this field pay double the state's average salary and are part of an industry that contributes more than 7 percent of the nation's total gross domestic product.
Gains remain uneven
While the state as a whole had a great year in terms of employment figures, a closer look at the numbers indicates gains in a handful of areas made up for stagnation or even sizeable losses in other counties. Northern Colorado community radio KUNC reported on a study conducted by the Kansas City Federal Reserve, which found higher unemployment rates concentrated in two areas of the state. The Fed's report showed Huerfano County and others surrounding it registered at least 6 percent unemployment rates, with Huerfano itself more than 7 percent. That's double the statewide average of 3.5 percent as of December 2015. Counties on the western edge of the state also appear to be struggling, with unemployment between 5 and 6 percent in several areas.
KUNC pointed out that Front Range counties, which include the state's most populated cities, all fare well in terms of employment statistics, which is to be expected. Even many of the more rural municipalities register low unemployment figures thanks to their proximity to resorts and a thriving tourism industry. The hard-hit counties tend to be those with agriculture and extraction-centric economies. In the south, farming towns in the Arkansas and San Luis valleys have been devastated by drought, while western counties have been impacted by a contraction in the once-prosperous coal industry. The decline in manufacturing jobs that's been seen all over the U.S. has also hit certain towns in rural Colorado particularly hard. KUNC noted that Pueblo was formerly a major player in the steel business, but fell hard when the market crashed in 1982 and hasn't recovered since.
The takeaway from Colorado's employment figures is that the state has come a long way in a short amount of time. Despite being an economic leader in the U.S. as a whole, however, there is still much to be done. With the right plans and expertise in place, it's not unrealistic to speculate Colorado could grow to be even stronger in a short time.
Businesses looking to make an impact in the vibrant Colorado economy should consult the professionals at Vectra Bank first.