Boulder makes rapid recovery from pandemic; more yet to come
BOULDER — Boulder’s economy has made rapid recovery from the COVID-inspired recession, but it still ranks behind other metropolitan statistical areas in certain categories. Job growth is not among those trailing categories, according to Rich Wobbekind.
Wobbekind, the senior economist in the research division of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, gave an economic snapshot of the state of the economy in Boulder and the Boulder MSA, which includes all of Boulder County, at the annual Boulder Economic Summit today.
He said that the Boulder MSA ranks in the top 30 of the 384 MSAs in the country for labor growth. “We’re a healthy economy at least employment wise, and we feel good about life overall,” he said.
On other fronts, however, the community lags. While the Boulder MSA ranked 47th among MSAs for real gross domestic product growth over the past 10 years, in the past year, that number has slipped to 216th place.
Population growth, also, trails what it was over the past 10-year period, during which the community ranked 55th. In the past year, population growth has lagged to 322nd place.
Personal-income growth, also, has lagged in the past year, ranking 366th among MSAs, compared with 39th over a 10-year span.
Still, “Boulder is more resilient than Colorado and certainly better than the nation as a whole,” he said.
He noted that Greeley had the strongest and fastest recovery from the Great Recession, thanks to the energy industry. But within the state, Boulder had the fastest recovery from the COVID recession.
Wobbekind also identified the largest employment sectors in the community. He said the professional services and scientific sector employs 20% of the Boulder workforce, followed by government with about 17%. Manufacturing is third at about 13%.
Industries showing the biggest changes in employment in the Boulder MSA is topped by the leisure and hospitality industry, with a 13% year over year growth as the industry continues its recovery from the pandemic shutdowns. Since 2020, the sector with the biggest change is the professional and business services sector, he said.
“All categories since 2020 are in positive territory, except government, which has declined in jobs” [during that period,] he said.
He said the community by the nature of its industries has a high concentration of companies that can permit its employees to work remotely.
He noted that the number of workers quitting their jobs is “finally starting to come down” as the economy settles down from the pandemic.
Retail sales have recovered from the pandemic, but he said that Boulder is lagging behind several other communities in the state in that regard. Sales taxes are up 20% in Boulder in the first nine months of 2020 versus the first nine months of 2019, for example, but Castle Rock in the same time period is up 60%.