The confidence of Colorado business leaders has increased slightly going into 2015, according to the Leeds Business Confidence Index (LBCI) recently released by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. The index is more stable than in has been its 11-year history.

“We’ve gone seven quarters with very low volatility quarter to quarter after having very high volatility quarter to quarter for the previous run of the entire survey,” said economist Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Leeds School’s Business Research Division, which conducts the LBCI. “When business people are assessing the environment they’re seeing it as really stable right now.”

The first quarter LBCI for 2015 posted a reading of 60.8, up from 59.5 last quarter.

Expectations also measured positive—at 50 or higher—for all of the metrics within the index, which include the national economy, state economy, industry sales, industry profits, capital expenditures and hiring plans. The favorable standings represent 13 consecutive quarters of positive expectations, according to the LBCI.

As evidence of the current stability, the standard deviation of the LBCI—or variation from the average reading—has been 0.7 over the past seven quarters, compared to 7.9 each quarter before that in the report’s history

Overall, optimism in the state economy is the highest metric in the index for the first quarter of 2015 at 66.2, up from 63.9 last quarter. Optimism in the national economy gained the biggest boost; now up to 60, up from 56.4 last quarter. And hiring, though still solidly positive, is the least bullish component of the index at 58.2, up from 57.9 last quarter.

Metrics on capital expenditures notched positive at 59.4 for the first quarter of 2015, up from 57.8 last quarter.

Profits expectations are at 59 heading into the new year, up from 58.8, and sales fell a fraction of a point to 61.8, down from 62.1.
Colorado’s unemployment rate fell to 4.1% in November 2014 and employment in Colorado has registered 49 months of year-over-year growth.

Employment growth is fragmented around the state. The top three areas that showed growth are the metropolitan statistical areas of Greeley (+4%), Denver-Aurora-Broomfield (+2.7%) and Boulder (+2.3%). The Greeley MSA is 14.7% above prerecession employment levels.

Employment growth also was recorded in the Fort Collins-Loveland (+2%) and Pueblo (+1.3%) MSAs. The Colorado Springs MSA was flat and employment fell in the Grand Junction MSA by 1%

The Colorado Springs and Grand Junction MSAs are the only two areas that have not regained prerecession employment levels in Colorado.

Statewide, the biggest employment gains in November compared with the same month in 2013 were in the mining and logging, construction and leisure and hospitality sectors.