Employment outlook for Colorado Springs

Filed under: Focus |

Survey results released in September by Manpower Inc. revealed prospects for a weak job market in Colorado Springs.

Manpower, a company specializing in employment services such as recruitment and training, surveyed employers in number of industries in Colorado Springs. Of the companies interviewed, 23 percent plan to hire more employees during the fourth quarter. Twenty percent plan to reduce their staffs and 50 percent did not report any change in their workforces.

Nancy Cruikshank, branch manager of Manpower in Colorado Springs, said these numbers are a little less optimistic than those forecast for the third quarter. The average for Colorado has 26 percent of employers predicting an increase in hiring and only nine percent planning to reduce their workforces during the fourth quarter. “I think we might be a little cautious here,” Cruikshank said. “The Colorado Springs area employment outlook is weaker than the third quarter forecast when 30 percent of the companies interviewed intended to take on more staff, while 11 percent planned to decrease headcount,” Cruikshank said in a news release.

Employment projections such as those found in the Manpower survey are not the final authority, however.

Area economists offered their own opinions on the future of the Colorado job market. Jeff Thredgold, economist for Vectra Bank Colorado, said he believes employment in Colorado will increase by 20,000 jobs in 2005. The fear that jobs will be outsourced to foreign labor markets is not something to obsess over, Thredgold said. “Bad news sells newspapers,” he said.

And the addition of 20,000 new jobs is not an unreasonable projection, said Rocky Scott, president and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation. “There are 4.5 million people in the state and about two million jobs,” he said. “Twenty thousand jobs is only about one percent of the current job market. Defense is still doing well and technology is starting to come back.”

Manpower conducts its quarterly surveys six to eight weeks before the beginning of each quarter. “I think that influences the data,” Cruikshank said. “It’s a forward-looking survey. It’s difficult for some companies to project that far out. We’re asking them to look five months into the future.”

Activity within the Colorado Springs Manpower office is picking up, Cruikshank said. “We in our office are busier. It seems to me our office is growing,” she said. “That means that companies need people to do work.” Cruikshank said her office has been working with increasingly more clients as the year comes to a close.

Manpower surveyed employers in Colorado Springs in construction, education, finance, insurance, real estate, manufacturing (durables and non-durables), public administration, services, transportation and public utilities and wholesale and retail trade. Employers in the mining sector were not interviewed.

According to Manpower, the employment outlook is strongest for non-durable manufacturing, public administration, construction and finance/insurance/real estate. “Construction can slow down in the fourth quarter, but that’s not what the survey has shown,” Cruikshank said.

Fred Crowley and Tom Zwirlein, economists with the Southern Colorado Economic Forum and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, do not foresee significant job increases in manufacturing. “We’re very doubtful that we’ll see another big manufacturing company coming into town with 1,000 to 1,500 new jobs paying $65,000 to $70,000 a year,” Crowley said. “We are estimating that we’ll pick up 3,000 to 3,100 net new jobs in Colorado Springs for 2005,” Zwirlein said.

Colorado’s unemployment rate stood at 6 percent in September 2003 and the rate is now at 4.9 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The department also reported that the number of unemployed in the fall of 2003 was 148,600 and that figure has dropped to 123,000.

“From the clients we work with,” Cruikshank said, “it seems people are very positive about the outlook for the future.”

- Stephanie.Cline@csbj.com