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Crosstabs - A Closer Look at the Economics & Demographics of Colorado

Colorado's 2016 Population & Economic Overview

Feb 7, 2017 • Colorado State Demography Office

We like to end each year with a look back at the population and economic changes and trends we’ve seen across the state. Although Colorado varies by Region and even by County, there were some big changes and takeaways at the state level that we want to share with you. You can also read the entire 2016 Population & Economic Overview here.

Population Colorado’s July 2015 population was estimated at 5.456 million, an increase of almost 100,000 from the previous year. This increase of 1.9% ranked 2nd in the US behind North Dakota, and 7th in total change. While this level of growth was very common for Colorado in the 1990’s, 2015 marks the first time since 2001 that the state has grown by 100,000.

This growth didn’t take place evenly across the state, however. The Front Range saw 96% of Colorado’s population growth between 2010 and 2015, with 68% of the total in the Denver Metro Area. Elsewhere in the state, 23 counties recorded population loss during the same period. Twenty-nine counties experienced net out migration, and 15 counties had natural decline. Why is this important? Because counties experiencing both natural decline and net out migration face real difficulties with long term population sustainability. The map below shows which counties saw the largest population changes, both increases and decreases.

Housing Colorado added an estimated 26,300 housing units in 2015, but is still behind household formation. This is why we’ve continued to see tightness in the housing market and price escalation. Adding to this, we’re expecting to see more change in Colorado’s housing landscape as Boomers age into the 70+ age group (when many people downsize to smaller homes with fewer stairs and smaller yards to maintain) and the leading edge of the Millennials enter the age group often associated with home ownership.

Forecasts Colorado’s population is forecast to continue to grow, but at a slowing rate, with an estimated increase of 95-100,000 from 2015-16 as well as from 2016-17. This slower growth is forecast for a number of reasons, including a slowing economy, slowing birth rates, our aging population, and slower labor force growth. As mentioned above, the largest of this growth is expected to continue to take place along the Front Range. The 2050 forecast for Colorado remains at 8.6 million with 7.1 million along the Front Range, 82% of the total population.

Age It’s impossible to understand Colorado’s demographic and economic trends without taking age into consideration. Colorado has been a very “young” state historically, the result of years of attracting young adults age 22-37. Today, many of these migrants who arrived in the 1970s are aging into the 65+ age group, causing change to housing, the labor market, and public finance to name a few. Read our 2-part series on Aging in Colorado for a more in-depth explanation.

Employment Colorado remained one of the top performing states in 2015 in terms of our economic output, unemployment rate, and employment growth. With a 3.9% unemployment rate in 2015, Colorado was one of only nine states with an unemployment rate of less than 4%!

Employment rose by 95,900 or 3.1% in 2015, bringing the Total Estimated Jobs in the state to 3,165,000, and three-quarters of the counties in Colorado experienced an employment increase from 2014.

Summary We think it’s important to pause at the end of each year and look back at the changes and trends across Colorado, as well as our forecasts for the future. We encourage you to take a few minutes to read the entire 2016 Population & Economic Overview on our publications page. The data, along with helpful maps and graphs helps to tell the story of our state, its trends, and what we expect to see in the future.

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Data source: US Census Bureau, CO State Demography Office