state MSA labor markets…similar but different

I have talked a lot about Colorado’s employment struggles over the past decade. It’s interesting to look at the different regions to see what type of story emerges about variation in regional performance. This chart shows how employment has changed since January 2000 in each of the state’s 7 metropolitan statistical areas.

Two things jump out. First, with the exception of Greeley and Grand Junction–oil and gas intensive economies–the 2001 recession led to significant job losses for about 2 years, followed by an increase until Spring 2008. Then the Great Recession hit, and all of the MSAs saw pretty substantial job losses.

The second thing is that there is a large variation in end points, even though general trends were similar. Greeley and Grand Junction employment totals are about 16.5% higher than at the start of the millennium. On the other end, Boulder is up 2%, Denver is unchanged, and job totals are about 1.5% percent lower for Colorado Springs.

Two important points are to be had. First, the national economy matters to Colorado. Over the past 11 years the US job picture doesn’t look all that different than does Denver’s; this state is tied to the US economy in important ways.

Second, there is great variation across Colorado’s regions. Manufacturing losses had important impacts in Colorado Springs. Boulder has struggled to recover from the 2001 recession, which hit hard a region that was BOOMING. Oil and gas expansion helped Greeley and Grand Junction, but those two MSAs have fallen the farthest over the past 4 years. Fort Collins has followed the steadiest of growth paths.

Bottom line. The national economy matters. The local economic base matters. There is no one size fits all economic development policy for Colorado.

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