Yampa Valley forecast indicates continuing economic recovery | SteamboatToday.com

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Yampa Valley forecast indicates continuing economic recovery

RaeAnn Najolia, front, and Tanya Trotter check out the retail merchandise Monday at Fleischer Sport at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. The economic recovery began early last year, and Yampa Valley Data Partners expects that trend to continue in 2012.

— According to the Yampa Valley Data Partners Economic Forecast Newsletter for the first quarter of 2012, the local economy began recovering during the first quarter of 2011.

The local data-mining nonprofit expects that trend to continue this year based on the forecast, which evaluates consumer confidence data from recessions for the past 30 years. The recession data is one of several indicators in the first-quarter economic forecast newsletter.

Yampa Valley Data Partners Executive Director Kate Nowak said there's enough history to pinpoint the peak of the past decade (third quarter of 2007), the bottom of the recession (second and third quarters of 2009) and when the recovery began (first quarter of 2011).

Nowak called 2011, which also included a dip in consumer confidence in the fall, a soft recovery but said she expects it to continue in 2012.

"During this past year, we really saw things improve at a slow pace," she said. "There's a lot of speculation out there about the national economy, but for us, we can actually see it."

Scott Ford, a consultant for Yampa Valley Data Partners, gave a brief presentation about the first-quarter forecast to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday.

Nowak said the forecast uses hindsight to help predict the future.

For instance, Nowak said the real estate market is improving. She said that home inventory peaked and is declining and that the pace of foreclosures has slowed.

Despite those signs of improvement, the forecast also shows that 488 construction businesses generated 3,200 jobs at the peak in 2007 and that those figures since have decreased to 343 construction businesses (30 percent) and 1,005 jobs (69 percent).

In Routt and Moffat counties during that time, 13 percent of business establishments closed and 18 percent of jobs were lost. The forecast explores indicators for both counties.

Yampa Valley Data Partners doesn't expect the residential construction industry to return soon, but the forecast notes that it's the best time to buy a home based on the housing affordability index indicator.

Nowak said although the number of jobs has decreased, the average weekly wage has increased. She said that indicates fewer part-time jobs.

There were several indicators in the forecast that dealt with retail sales projections. Nowak said Yampa Valley Data Partners analyzed local purchasing power, specifically what percentage of residents' income is spent locally on consumables including groceries, supplies and apparel. Nowak said households in Routt and Moffat counties shopped for those consumables locally 80 percent of the time.

Bigger retail items such as cars and non-retail items such as housing, health care and insurance aren't included.

"When I look at this newsletter, I say, 'Wow, we can now look at the recession in hindsight,'" she said. "We can see the finish line. We're not too far ahead yet, but we can look back."

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com