On Thursday, March 25, 2021, the Vail Symposium partnered with the Vail Valley Partnership on a program providing Colorado’s near-term economic prospects. Dr. Richard L. Wobbekind of the Leeds School of Business at CU presented first the national, then the state level outlook.
- It is no secret that the pandemic-induced recession was a staggering hit. Nationally, the GDP dipped 2.4 percent in 2020. Thanks to stimulus measures over the course of the pandemic, it is expected that GDP will recover by the third quarter of 2021.
- Employment has made gains after its steep decline in 2020, with February 2021 posting especially strong job growth. However, one year later and the economy is still down 9.5 million jobs. Re-training may be needed to avert a large cohort of structurally unemployed.
- How long will the recovery take? For comparison purposes, consider that it took 6 years for the employment to recover following the recession of 2008. It is projected employment will take until 2023 to fully recover. The pre-recession economy this time was stronger than in 2008; this is working in our favor for a faster recovery.
- After being in the front of the pack prior to the recession, Colorado is currently in the middle of the pack in terms of job growth. Colorado currently ranks 26th in job growth.
- Dr. Wobbekind confirmed that many of the hardest hit by the loss of employment were the most vulnerable–younger, less education, and women.
- Retail sales were a mixed bag with some winners and other losers. Building materials and sporting goods thrived during the pandemic, while clothing and food and beverage outlets struggled.
- Mitigating the damage from the recession, the Fed propped up financial markets and bought government debt.
- As for inflation, it is currently higher in Colorado than the rest of the country, and housing prices may be a driver.
- Several audience members expressed concern over the growing national debt. Dr. Wobbekind thought debt would constrain growth in the long run, but that it would not impact real estate or have an inflationary effect in the short term.
- Colorado is experiencing a slowdown in population growth–both a slower natural increase and diminished inbound migration. Eagle County is expected to see a slight uptick in growth–but nothing near the increase seen in the 1990s.
- Snowsports and hospitality were hit hard by the recession with snowsports down 13.8 percent and leisure and hospitality down 20 percent.
Overall Dr. Wobbekind was optimistic and upbeat about Colorado’s prospects.