Recovery proceeds. Denver continues to add jobs at a hefty pace as the gap between pre-recession and post-recession employment levels grows increasingly narrow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preliminary data for July indicates that non-farm employment was up fully 3.0% (36,600 jobs) from 12 months prior and was up 4.3% (51,300 jobs) over 24 months. Indeed, employment per the latest July was only 0.6% (7,900 jobs) shy of the July 2008 total. At the current rate, the local economy will soon return to pre-recession employment levels.
The broad base of the local economy, with deep roots in high-technology and energy, including green energy, has been a major factor in the rebound. Employment in the centrally important Professional and Business Services segment was up 3.3% (7,000 jobs) over the 12-month span ending with July, according to preliminary estimates from the BLS, and was up fully 6.8% (14,000 jobs) since July 2010. The Leisure and Hospitality sector enjoyed a 4.3% (5,900-job) increase over the latest reported 12-month span, while Trade, Transportation, and Utilities grew at the rate of 3.5% (adding 8,100 jobs). Even the Government sector, including a 200-job loss in the federal component, expanded: BLS preliminary data indicate a 0.9% (1,600-job) July-to-July gain. Thus, not only are crucial sectors of the economy showing positive growth, they are doing so with large numbers. Several recent business expansions, meanwhile, are worth noting. In July alone, the Denver Business Journal reported in August, “NASA awarded Sierra Nevada Corporation in Louisville a $212.5 million contract to continue development efforts on the Dream Chaser Space System, Centennial-based United Launch Alliance received a $412 million contract to launch a trio of NASA climate missions, and Westminster-based Datalogix Inc. announced plans to hire more than 300 employees over the next five years.” Note the high-tech emphasis.
Interestingly, the Construction sector, following severe losses due to the recession—an effect, to a significant extent, of the housing fiasco—also sees the return of net job growth. The largest gain in that segment was the 14.9% (6,300-job) year-over-year increase, according to BLS preliminary estimates for July, recorded for the Specialty Trade Contractors subsector. Indeed, following a lengthy pause, single-family residential construction has returned. “[H]ome construction is on the rise with 68.5% more residential building permits issued through the first half of 2012 than the first six months of 2011,” stated a recent Metro Denver
Economic Development Corporation (EDC) report as relayed by the Journal in August. According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, meanwhile, the 6,746 residential building permits issued through the first seven months of 2012 were up fully 113.7% from the total recorded for the comparable period of 2011. Of that total, the 3,089 permits awarded in the detached single-family segment were up 51.6%. (One major project—the $4.3 billion Sterling Ranch development in Douglas County, however, was dealt a significant setback when the courts halted its development over water issues. County commissioners are vowing an appeal,” The Denver Post reported in August. Planning for Sterling Ranch called for 12,050 new homes.
Underlying the return of housing construction are the favorable turns taken by the health of the single-family market itself. Indeed, according to the website 24/7 Wall Street, Colorado’s housing market is the fifth-strongest in the country, the Journal reported in September 2012. Metro Denver home sales through the first seven months of 2012 were up 16.8% from the comparable span of 2011, helping to support higher home sales prices, according to EDC. According to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Index, metro area sales prices were up 4% year-over-year as of June and were up 2% for the month alone, the Journal relayed in late August. The only major markets with greater gains in the year ending in June were Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Miami. According to National Association of Realtors, the median single-family home resale price for the Denver area Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) for second quarter was $260,700, up fully 12.0% year-over-year and one of the nation’s better performances.