Thursday, April 24, 2014

Garfield County Economic Update

Garfield County’s economy continued to limp along in the final quarter of 2013. The county did generate its first year-to-year employment gain in nine months. However, the 0.3-percent, five-job increase between December 2012 and December 2013 hardly seems anything to write home about. The labor market will need to generate stronger employment additions before it can be pronounced economically fit. Possibly, December figures mark the first step towards improved economic health.

Despite the county’s overall weak economic showing, healthcare/social services and the county’s largest industry—leisure/hospitality services—created roughly 20 jobs each. Unfortunately, mostly minor losses in other industries (construction, manufacturing, trade and federal/local government) combined to nearly offset the gains in leisure/hospitality and healthcare/social services.

Garfield County’s less-than-vigorous expansion in the jobs arena explains its virtually stagnant jobless rate. The unemployment rates for both March 2012 and March 2013 measured 9.2 percent. As usual, Garfield County’s very seasonal economy results in one of the highest jobless rates in the state. The county’s immobile seasonally adjusted unemployment rate echoes the numbers of initial claims for unemployment insurance which have settled back into a very seasonal (but not cyclical) pattern.

Recently released population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show Garfield County with a declining population base. Job losses of the past several years seemed to have spurred workers to leave the county. Garfield County’s 2013 population estimate of 5,083 reflects net out-migration of more than 200 individuals over the past three years.

Gross taxable sales rounded out the county’s lackluster economic indicators. Between the fourth quarters of 2012 and 2013, sales dropped by roughly 6 percent.