Opinion | Patrick Brower: Darn, there likely will be positive job growth in ‘23 | SkyHiNews.com

Opinion | Patrick Brower: Darn, there likely will be positive job growth in ‘23

Patrick Brower
Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower, Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower/Grand Enterprise Initiative

The headline in The Denver Post said it well: “Colorado economy will cool next year, but it won’t freeze over.”

That headline was over a story about the annual yearly economic preview called the Colorado Business Economic Outlook from the University of Colorado Boulder. The Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder puts together this usually prescient annual economic forecast, which has been offered for 58 years.

In essence, the outlook predicts that the Colorado economy is likely to cool for the first half of the year in 2023 but will then start to pick up again for the second half of the year. I like to refer to this outlook because Colorado’s economy tends to be different than the national economy, and usually on the positive side.

So while many economic prognosticators may be predicting a recession next year nationally, the Colorado Business Outlook sees us having what it calls a mild recession, maybe. I tend to agree.

Here’s why.

First and foremost, the outlook shows that employers in the state are on track to add an estimated 57,100 jobs, hot on the heels of adding a whopping 120,800 jobs this year, which greatly exceeded last year’s outlook projection for this year by 73,900 jobs.

This employment trend is going to continue, mostly in the Front Range. I’d love to see many, many more jobs get filled up here, but as I’ve lamented many times, there just aren’t the people out there to fill the jobs locally.

But with the added jobs elsewhere in the state, the demand on our mainly tourism-oriented services will remain strong and, I believe, continue to accelerate. While this could be good news for many in the service industry, the truth is that it just means many will have to work that much harder to handle the increased demand, with not enough staff.

So, as in the past two years, the good economy means more work and stress here.

Inflation, which is stubbornly persistent and exacerbated here in the High Country, isn’t really slowing demand. People still want to vacation and get away from it all and Grand County is one of the places where these people come. According to the outlook, high prices have not been seriously dampening consumer spending. People are spending savings and working more so they can afford to “get away.”

This trend ties right into the situation with real estate here in Grand County. High interest rates and the usual seasonal fluctuations from summer to winter have dampened real estate activity to the point where some of the feverishly high prices of last summer are abating a little. But I just feel that we are going to settle back into a smallish drop in prices that then sets a new “average” level that will still seem high in the eyes of many locals.

Tourists and other visitors coming to the county are, simply, driving this trend. Locals must struggle to keep up.

A key sentence in the article about the report, which basically corroborates what I’ve said above, reads: “Local governments … should maintain strong hiring, as well as leisure and hospitality and professional and business services.”

Just so they can find people to hire.

As a caveat, this report has been general very good at predicting the coming years, except for twice. It was caught by surprise by the subprime mortgage crisis and recession of 2008 and 09, and of course it couldn’t have predicted the impacts of COVID in 2020.

But, all in all, expect a mild recession early on next year, to be followed by busy times again.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He is also the author of the book “KILLDOZER:  The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

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