By The Associated Press

DENVER - The mountain region of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah could end 2005 with its strongest job growth in years as the economy continues to improve, an economist predicted Monday.

Nearly 51,000 jobs have been added regionwide since January, and indications from business leaders and managers are that the recovery will continue, Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss said.

"Surveys over the past several months and government data indicate that the region is growing jobs at a pace not experienced since before the 2001 recession," Goss said.

The Omaha, Neb. - based university's overall Mountain States Index set a record in July at 72.4, up from 71.0 in June. The July employment index was 71.7, up from 65.0 the previous month.

The Creighton Economist Forecasting Group, directed by Goss, conducts a monthly survey of supply managers in the three states to compile the index, which ranges between 0 and 100. An index greater than 50 indicates an expansionary economy in the next three to six months.

Here is a summary of results for each state:

Colorado - Overall index rose to 72.9 from 72.4 in June. Goss siad the state has added about 22,000 jobs and he expects an additional 26,000 new jobs by December, which would put job growth at 2.2 percent for the year. If the prediction holds, it will be the strongest job growth in the state since 1996, Goss said.

Utah - Overall index was 56.8 down slightly from 57.0 in June.  High-tech companies reported solid growth.  Goss said the state has added about 25,000 jobs this year, and he expects an additional 22,000 to be created by year end, ;utting job growth at 4 percent.  If the prediction holds, it will be the best job growth in the state since 1996, Goss said.

Wyoming - Overall index was 84.4, up from 77.6 in June. About 3,500 jobs have been added this year and Goss expects an additional 2,000 by year end to put job growth at 2.1 percent. That would be the highest job growth since 2001, he said. Originally published August 2, 2005

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