Note to Editors: The full forecast report can be found at www.ncedc.com and with the news release at http://www.newsinfo.colostate.edu/.
Despite a declining U.S. economy, northern Colorado is projected to add more than 4,000 new jobs in 2009, according to a report released today by two Colorado State University economists.
The 1.9 percent projected job growth rate in Larimer and Weld Counties, however, is expected to be about the same as it was this year, and will barely keep pace with growth in the labor force. As a result, the forecast is for higher regional unemployment rates next year – about 4.5 percent, according to the study.
Martin Shields, regional economist and a professor of economics at CSU, indicated that the recent problems on Wall Street have important local effects. He co-authored the report with David Keyser, research economist at CSU.
The forecast and the regional economist position are co-sponsored by the Northern Economic Development Corp. and the Colorado State University Office of Economic Development.
"With the tightening of capital markets, local businesses are finding it much more difficult to get the credit they need to maintain and grow their operations," Shields said. "At the same time, consumers are more cautious, leading them to rethink some of their planned purchases."
The regional slowdown, however, will not be nearly as dramatic as what is expected to happen nationally. Many economists expect 2009 to witness little, if any growth in U.S. job totals, especially in the first half of the year.
The regional forecast calls for net new jobs in nearly all sectors, led by retail and health care. Slight job losses are forecast in manufacturing, but the authors note these could be offset by recent announcements by AVA Solar and Vestas to hire more workers. Together, these two clean energy companies have announced they expect to hire nearly 2,500 new workers over the next two years.
The current upheaval of financial markets has made Shields more suspicious of predictions.
"Economic forecasts are always fraught with uncertainty," he admits, "and until the current situation sorts itself out, it is incredibly difficult to project how the region will be impacted. But it also is important to provide the public with information about where we think the economy is heading."
There is some good news for employees. The study indicates that inflation-adjusted earnings per worker made notable gains for the first time in several years, and now stand at $38,465 per year.
"The past six years have been hard on northern Colorado’s workers," said Keyser. "I’m sure that the wage increases have helped those families who probably felt like they weren’t getting ahead."
Maury Dobbie, president and CEO of the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp. said the report underscores the important challenges the region faces.
"I know some businesses and workers in our region are struggling in these uncertain times," Dobbie said. "NCEDC is more committed than ever to strengthening the economy by working with primary employers and our education and government partners."
As evidence, Dobbie pointed out that NCEDC has assisted in seven projects announcing 1,062 new jobs in Larimer County so far this year.