Colorado headed for more job growth in 2014, report finds

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<p>Pictured: workers on a construction site in 2010. Construction is one of many industries surging in Colorado.</p>

Photo: Construction workersColorado is headed for more job growth in 2014, continuing to outpace much of the country, according to a new economic report released Monday by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business.

Despite the good news, however, the report projects job growth in Colorado will be a bit below 2013.

"We’re actually forecasting a little bit slower growth rate for 2014 largely because we’ve added so many jobs in 2013," Dr. Richard Wobbekind, head of research at Leeds School, says. "We just don’t see the ability to sustain that kind of momentum in the current national economic environment,"

The report finds that the state has added about 66,900 jobs in 2013 while predicting that figure will drop to 61,300 newly added jobs in 2014.

The Leeds report comes on the heels of positive national economic news on Friday reporting that the U.S. unemployment rate is down to 7 percent.

Current figures available at the state level show that Colorado's unemployment is below the national level and Dr. Wobbekind expects this will continue to drop in 2014.

According to the report, Colorado will continue to grow in the urban areas along the I-25 corridor, from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs. Additionally, growth will continue in Greeley, where the city continues to see job growth as a result of the fracking boom.

Wobbekind says the forcast shows job growth is in almost every sector of the economy."

"We’re seeing everything from construction and manufacturing and natural resources and mining, leisure and hospitality," Wobbekind said. "They’re all adding jobs in our forecast, with the lone exception of the information sector, which includes telecommunications, publishing and journalism."

Newspapers, in particular, will continue to lose jobs in Colorado next year, according to the economic forecast .

Online, software publishing and film are keeping the technology sector from taking a bigger dive than is already projected, data shows.

The biggest job gains, according to the report, continue to be in professional and business services that require specialized training including the fields of science, technology and law.

Among the other areas showing the highest growth are health care, which experienced a hiring boom in 2013, private and higher education,

The reasons for the growth are complex but the report also recognizes efforts by the state and local governments to attract businesses.

These efforts include the film incentives program, which has attracted films like "Fast and Furious 7", commercials and programming on the Discovery Channel and an NBC Sports Network.

Homes are also getting more valuable, according to the Leeds School report, particularly across the Front Range.

As such, home prices have gone up as much as 10 percent in some areas and renters in the Denver area should see more units available as well.

The lack of construction on the Western Slope is compounding the region's challenges in pulling out of the recession despite the positive outlook in other areas.

"They [builders] lost some of their other jobs and they lost the construction piece of the economy as well," Wobbekind says. "Many of those communities have energy or tourism and part of tourism has always been the building of second homes."

Wobbekind also notes how the construction industry has really slowed down dramatically since the recession.

Energy production continues to be a big part of Colorado’s economy but now much of the focus is on Weld County.

According to the report, more than 60 percent of the 3,161 permits for wells this year have gone to Weld County.

Trends in energy production are concentrated mainly on horizontal drilling and about 94 percent of all horizontal wells with permits n Colorado are located in Weld County.

Meanwhile, the forecast for agriculture is mixed: Prices for corn have fallen because more is being harvested and the report predicts that Colorado's income from corn will fall several hundred million dollars in 2014.

Lower prices for feed corn are good for ranchers in Colorado, signaling good news for the beef industry.

As prices continue to rise, beef is set to become even more important for Colorado’s agriculture sector next year.

The Leeds School report also highlights a few potential risks that could slow growth in the year ahead. One is natural disasters like wildfires and floods.

"We already believe we’ll see impacts in the tourism industry from the floods of this year causing cancellations of tourism visits in 2014." Wobbekind says.

Another potential risk, according to the data, is the ongoing debate fiscal battle in Congress over the sequester and the next deadline that looms.

Growth could also be held back by the new financial regulations being implemented nationally, according to the report.

The Dodd-Frank law, put in place after the bank meltdowns, is an effort to keep tighter reins on the financial sector.

Researchers say the complicated nature of the rules and their piecemeal implementation means financial institutions could hesitate to make loans.