Promise Of Vaccines Boosts The Optimism Of Colorado Business Leaders For 2021

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Pedestrians in face masks walk past an empty coffee shop where patrons aren’t allowed to sit indoors, Dec. 10, 2020, on Denver’s Tennyson Street.

Colorado business leaders are optimistic economic conditions will improve later in the year — but remain relatively downbeat on near-term prospects, according to a quarterly survey by researchers at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business.

Participant sentiment about state and local economies, industry sales and profits declined for the first quarter of 2021 compared to the last quarter of 2020, the survey found. Still, respondents show a sharp uptick in expectations across all categories for the second quarter.

Of 298 respondents, individuals at companies with fewer than 50 employees had a dimmer view of the business climate heading into the new year than those at larger firms. Panelists were split about evenly between the real estate industry, professional, scientific and technical services, and the finance and insurance sector.

Business leaders were whipsawed by renewed COVID-19 restrictions as infections spiked in the fall. CU researchers revised optimism for the first quarter of this year downward from a September survey. The outlook darkened as the economic reality of the second wave set in, the researchers said in a report released Monday.

Roughly one-third of respondents cited the vaccine as the main driver of their economic outlook.

“While the vaccine was mostly cited by individuals who expressed a positive outlook, some individuals cited the lag in deploying a vaccine as a reason for their pessimism in the immediate quarter head,” the researchers wrote.

Regarding sales, 38 percent of respondents expect a recovery this year, while 27 percent put a recovery in 2022 or beyond. An additional 30 percent said sales never decreased. Just over 29 percent project an increase in hiring during the first quarter.

Many respondents don’t expect to return to the office until the second or third quarter of 2021, the report found. Roughly one-third of respondents report no change in productivity since March, while just over 36 percent said productivity took a hit. Another 33 percent report an improvement in productivity.