Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brief Garfield County Update

Because of its heavy dependence on tourist-related (leisure/hospitality) jobs, Garfield County’s employment numbers have a very seasonal pattern. Of course, using year-to-year changes to track trends basically erases the seasonality. However, recently a long-term pattern has emerged in the employment data. Garfield County’s employment surged early in 2010 (peaking at 17-percent growth), only to collapse in during most of 2011. These fluctuations are not uncommon in smaller counties. Currently, jobs are back growing at a moderate rate. However, other economic indicators tell a diversified tale.

  • On a year-to-year basis, Garfield County’s nonfarm employment had increased almost 4 percent as of March 2012—a rate slightly higher than fast-growing Utah generated. 
  • Garfield County’s “bread and butter” jobs in the leisure/hospitality services industries generated a lion’s share of the March-to-March gain. Retail trade emerged as another employment mover and shaker. 
  • Many of the county’s industries actually lost employment. However, for the most part, industry losses totaled only a few positions. The exceptions? Private education/health/social services and wholesale trade took some decided employment hits. Unemployment rates have mirrored the surge and contraction of employment. 
  • Unemployment rates in 2011 actually topped those at the height of the national recession. Currently, Garfield County’s May 2012 rate registers in at 10.9 percent—far higher than either state of national rates. Because of the seasonal nature of Garfield County’s labor market, higher-than-average rates prove the norm. 
  • Garfield County’s building activity should certainly help boost construction employment in the months ahead. Both home permitting and nonresidential approved values made robust improvements in the first four months of 2012. Total permit values increased almost 90 percent between the first four months for 2011 and 2012. 
  • Sheesh! What happened to Garfield County’s gross taxable sales in the first quarter of 2012? Is that 140-percent increase a typo? The increase is “for real” just not really for this quarter. The huge gain represents an adjustment for a previous time period. Without the adjustment, sales are actually down 5 percent, year-to-year. However, with a few exceptions, Garfield County’s gross taxable sales have shown improvement since late 2009.