While Colorado’s manufacturing employment is operating below peak levels, industry GDP has continued to set records in the state. In fact, from 2000 to 2013, GDP increased 51%, whereas employment decreased 29%. The manufacturing employment situation, however, has been more positive over the past few years.
Beginning in 2001, Colorado recorded 10 consecutive years of manufacturing employment decline, losing 63,400 industry jobs, or 33.8% of employment over the period. In 2011, industry employment began to rebound in the state, increasing 3.1% in 2011, 2.2% in 2012, and 1.5% in 2013. The growth trajectory continues in 2014 in Colorado. Year-over-year employment growth has accelerated each month in 2014 in the state. September employment growth was 4.5% higher year-over-year, ranking the state 4th for the pace of manufacturing employment growth in the month of September year-over-year.
Despite recording manufacturing industry employment more than 27% below peak in Colorado, the state’s current growth ranks favorably, or less unfavorably, compared to most other states. Growth over the past three years ranks Colorado 10th; over the past five years, Colorado ranks 8th; and over the past 10 years, industry employment growth ranks 12th. Colorado has the 32nd largest employment base in the nation.
Despite this relatively positive news about the directional change in industry employment (from job losses to job gains), the reality is that manufacturing employment has been underperforming compared to overall employment growth. Colorado employment increased 1.6% in 2011, 2.4% in 2012, and 2.9% in 2013; and employment growth has averaged 2.7% in 2014. However, there are indications that the trend could be changing—for the past four months (June-September), manufacturing employment has outpaced overall growth in the state.
Brian Lewandowski is a Research Associate in the Business Research Division, Leeds School of Business, at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Reach him at 303.492.3307