Manufacturing employment continued to expand in Colorado in the December jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For the fourth quarter, manufacturing employment grew at the fastest pace since Q1 1995. Industry growth in the second half of 2014 exceeded the growth rate of total employment in Colorado. However, for perspective, the 139,900 manufacturing jobs recorded in December remain below 2007 levels. Over the past year, Colorado ranked 3rd for manufacturing employment growth; over the past three years Colorado ranked 7th; and over the past five years, Colorado ranked 8th. Colorado has the 30th largest employment base in the nation.

Detailed data available through Q2 2014 from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages show the greatest number of jobs added has been in four manufacturing sectors: fabricated metals, nonmetallic minerals, foods, and beverages. The Denver MSA is home to nearly 50% of manufacturing employment in the state, and the region recorded the greatest number of jobs added in 2014. The highest annual wages for the four quarters ending in Q2 were recorded in the manufacturing of petroleum and coal products ($103,813), transportation equipment ($102,208), and computer and electronic products ($100,113). While those high-tech industries record wages that are twice the average for the state, some sectors record wages below the state average, such as apparel, wood product, and food manufacturing.

Manufacturing cuts across many of the key industry clusters highlighted by both the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. High-tech manufacturing contributes to Colorado’s aerospace and bioscience clusters, as well as energy and IT. Manufacturing is also represented by Colorado’s brewery sector and organics and natural products sector. However, despite the semblance of a more diverse manufacturing sector, five sectors represented 55% of employment in Q2 2005 and five sectors represented 58% of employment in Q2 2014.

Brian Lewandowski is a Research Associate in the Business Research Division, Leeds School of Business, at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Reach him at 303.492.3307.