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Expert: State's economy to stabilize but still lose jobs in 2010

Colorado's economy will return to stability but not growth in 2010, according to economist Richard Wobbekind of the University of Colorado at Boulder's Leeds School of Business.

Wobbekind's announcement was part of the 45th annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum hosted Dec. 7 by the Leeds School of Business and BBVA Compass bank.

"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," he said.

Overall, the forecast calls for a loss of 3,200 jobs in 2010, compared with the 100,000 jobs the state lost in 2009. Job losses will continue through the first quarter, before leveling off in the second quarter and moving into positive growth in the third and fourth quarters, according Wobbekind.

"I think people will be disappointed to hear that we think there will be continued job loss in 2010, but in relative terms, it will seem like we're in recovery because the job loss is very small compared to what has happened in 2009," Wobbekind said.

And it's just not one or two years of poor job creation that are dragging the state down, he said. From an employment perspective, the decade beginning in 2000 can best be described as the lost decade for jobs in the state, with only 117,900 jobs added while Colorado's population increased by 870,000 people.

"Over the last decade we really haven't generated the number of jobs that we need for the growing population of this state," he said. "Our recent job growth is very low compared to the past three decades."

Wobbekind said the current recession has hit rural areas of the state harder than the urban areas, which wasn't true during the 2002-03 recession in which urban centers were hit harder.

"This economic downturn has had a big impact on tourism, which is a major part of the economy in many rural areas of the state," he said. "In addition, it's hurt the energy industry which is concentrated on the eastern plains and the Western Slope. The combination of those two sectors along with a slowdown in agriculture means many rural jobs lost."

Colorado's unemployment rate for 2010 is expected to increase from 7.3 percent at the end of 2009 to 8.1 percent, compared with a projected national unemployment rate of 9.8 percent.

Compiled by the Leeds School's business research division, the comprehensive Colorado Business Economic Outlook for 2010 features forecasts and trends for 13 business sectors prepared by more than 90 key business, government and industry professionals.

To view the entire economic outlook for Colorado in 2010, including an overview of each of the state's major economic sectors, visit http://leeds.colorado.edu/ and click on The Economy: 2010 Forecast.

To view the Leeds School's Business Research Division blog, visit http://www.cuboulderblogs.com/brd/.

To view a short video of Wobbekind discussing the economic outlook for Colorado in 2010, visit http://www.colorado.edu/news/.

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