Friday, April 19, 2013

Garfield County Economic Update

Although Garfield County experienced a post-recession job expansion earlier than most in 2010, it slipped into job-loss territory through most of 2011 and 2012. Recently released job figures show the county with tepid 1.5 percent year-to-year expansion in December 2012. However, the prior two quarters displayed employment contraction. In other words, the county hasn’t proved it has obtained a sustainable growth footing.

With the exception of construction permitting, most of the area’s economic indicators are improving—hopefully portending a better economy in 2013.

  • Between December 2011 and December 2012, Garfield County added just under 30 net new jobs to the labor market.
  • The county’s bread-and-butter industries—retail trade and leisure/hospitality services—provided the primary impetus for this expansion.
  • In fact, a notable number of major industries lost employment ground—specifically wholesale trade, information, and the public sector.
  • Unemployment in Garfield County has contracted and expanded in fits and starts during the past year and a half. As of February 2013, joblessness stood at 10.2 percent—far higher than both state (5.2 percent) and national (7.7 percent) average. Of course, the seasonal nature of the county’s economy results in a perennially high unemployment rate.
  • First-time claims for unemployment insurance have settled into a normal seasonal pattern during 2013 which should result in a lowering of the overall jobless rate in the months ahead. Not surprisingly, leisure/hospitality services showed the highest number of initial claims.
  • Garfield County’s home-building market has yet to show signs of improvement. During 2012, Garfield County marked its fifth straight year of decreasing home permits. Unfortunately, total permit values dropped almost 40 percent during 2012 as every single permit category lost ground.
  • Garfield County managed its fifth straight quarter of improving gross taxable sales by year-end. Excluding an adjustment for a previous time period, Garfield County’s fourth quarter gross taxable sales increased at a moderate 3.5 percent rate.