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Worker shortage will hold back Colorado’s economic growth in 2018, CU economists predict

Job growth in Colorado is expected to slow next year as an overtaxed infrastructure system and worker shortages weigh on the economy, according to the Colorado Business Economic Outlook 2018, which was released Monday.

“The economy is still strong here. We just don’t have enough labor,” said Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the business research division at CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, which prepares the closely followed forecast.

The outlook doesn’t call for a downturn. If one is in the cards, it probably won’t start to show up nationally until 2019, Wobbekind said. Rather, it projects hiring in Colorado will slow next year, not because of a lack of job openings but rather a lack of workers to fill those positions.

Colorado is expected to add 56,300 non-farm payroll jobs this year, a growth rate of 2.2 percent. That is close to last year’s 57,300 jobs added and 2.3 percent growth rate. Next year, the state is expected to add 47,100, a growth rate of only 1.8 percent.

The three industries that will contribute the most to job gains next year are professional and business services, with about 10,000 jobs added; trade transportation and utilities with 8,700 jobs added; and education and health services, with 8,400 jobs added.

On a percentage basis, some of the stronger gains will come in natural resources, which is enjoying a resurgence because of higher oil and natural gas prices. Petroleum producers and service providers are adding more workers after a long stretch of consolidation. But they are doing so in a tight market, and sometimes in head-to-head competition with the construction industry, which is struggling to meet a big backlog in infrastructure projects and a deficit in new single-family homes.

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