More jobs for Colo. in ’14, economists say

La Plata County forecast mixed

DENVER – Colorado will be among the top five states for job growth next year, economists from the University of Colorado predicted Monday.

And unlike the first tentative years of recovery from the Great Recession, nearly every field will see positive job growth, including gains in the hard-hit construction industry.

The job growth will come on the heels of a strong year.

Richard Wobbekind of the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business said 2013 “will wind up as the strongest job growth year since 2000 for Colorado.”

The forecast is the 49th annual for the CU business school. It calls for a gain of 61,300 jobs, compared with this year’s gain of about 66,900.

A predicted 11,000 of those new jobs will be in construction, thanks, in part, to people from other states migrating to Colorado. The predicted population growth of 90,000 is the largest in at least a decade.

The Western Slope will share in the state’s growth, but unlike the Front Range, mountain communities won’t quite return to their prerecession employment peaks, Wobbekind said.

“A lot of the Western Slope lost a combination of tourism jobs and energy jobs, and certainly construction jobs were the big one in tourism-based communities,” he said.

Although the tourism sector is returning to health, the second-home market – which powers the Western Slope’s construction industry – still has not caught fire, Wobbekind said.

The report examined a few regions within Colorado, including La Plata County.

The local economy is reliant on the summer tourism season, which suffered somewhat because of fires the last two years. Fewer visitors came to Mesa Verde National Park and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad this year compared with 2012.

However, strength in banking, real estate and other industries helped the county survive the fires in decent shape, the report says. It calls for continued “positive trends” in the job market.

“Anecdotally, the spirits of most local business owners are improving, and optimism has been continuing to build,” the report says.

Statewide, workers can expect job growth in nearly every field, from mining to professional services to retail trade. The one exception is the information sector, which includes publishing and telecommunications. Nearly four in 10 jobs in the publishing sector – which includes both print and software – have been lost since 2001.

Colorado newspapers employed 7,080 people at 181 businesses in 2005, but by 2012, those numbers had plummeted to 3,642 people at 150 businesses.

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