Economists see fewer Colorado job losses in 2010

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2009 11:54 AM

University of Colorado economists expect the state to add jobs in the second half of next year, but they still predict the state will lose 3,200 jobs overall in 2010.

Nevertheless, CU economist Richard Wobbekind says it's a sign the Colorado economy will settle down next year after losing about 100,000 jobs in 2009.

"We still have some serious kinks to work through, but we see 2010 as a stabilizing year that will put the state economy in a position for more sustained growth in 2011 and 2012," Wobbekind said in a written statement.

In a forecast released Monday, CU-Boulder's Leeds School of Business economists predicted the state unemployment rate would rise from 7.3 percent at the end of 2009 to 8.1 percent for 2010. That's about even with what the governor's budgeting office said in September, when it predicted an 8 percent unemployment rate for next year.

Colorado legislative economists will release their projections later this month. In September, they expected an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent in 2010 as frustrated job seekers who stopped looking for work get back in the job market.

The Colorado unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in 2007.

The last decade has been a slow one for job growth. The state has added about 870,000 residents since 2000 but only 117,900 jobs.

Rural areas that are home to ski resorts and the energy industry have been hurt more than urban areas during the national economic downturn, with oil and gas prices falling and the tourism industry trying to find ways to stoke people's desire to travel.

Meanwhile, agriculture was affected by lower prices, falling land values and the collapse of New Frontier Bank in Greeley, forcing some farmers and ranchers to shrink operations, CU's team said. CU economists expect farm income to dip bellow $1 billion next year for the first time since 2006.

They expect leisure and hospitality revenues to fall again in 2010, and the energy industry is expected to shed more jobs, but the drops are expected to be smaller than in 2009.

Retail sales, which can boost or bust state and city budgets that rely on sales tax collections, are expected to grow by 3 percent next year, according to the CU forecast. That's far rosier than the 12 percent decline expected for 2009.

Wobbekind said the state should gain about 6,500 higher-paying professional and business service jobs in 2010, but the construction industry will recover more slowly.