Routt County unemployment rate rises in March

Figure was 7.6 percent in March, compared with 7 percent in February


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To get help filing unemployment benefits or finding a job, visit the Steamboat Springs branch of the Colorado Workforce Center, 425 Anglers Drive. Call 970-879-3075.

— Routt County unemployment increased from 7 percent in February to 7.6 percent in March, according to figures released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

That number represents 86 more people without jobs, an increase from 1,108 people in February to 1,194 people in March. Routt’s unemployment rate in March 2009 was 6.2 percent. The figures are not adjusted for typical seasonal changes in employment.

The labor force also shrunk from February to March, dropping from 15,861 to 15,617 as the ski season wound down.

“I think that’s something to be expected,” said Brian Bradbury, an employment specialist with the Steamboat Springs branch of the Color­ado Workforce Center. “The end-of-season layoffs, there’s probably not a lot of surprises there.”

He said the Workforce Center still was seeing a steady flow of questions about unemployment. The federal government has passed jobs-related legislation — President Barack Obama signed an extension of jobless benefits Thursday — but Bradbury said it would take a while for federal benefits to trickle down to Colorado and Routt County.

He urged people who are unemployed to keep in touch with the Workforce Center.

The number of jobs in Routt County has decreased year over year. In March 2009, 15,212 people were working. Last month, 14,423 people were working. That’s a decrease of 789 jobs, or 5 percent.

In Moffat County, unemployment increased from 9 percent in February to 9.4 percent in March, an increase from 807 people to 841 people. The rate in Moffat was 7.3 percent in March 2009.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage points to 7.9 percent in March, according to Department of Labor and Employment figures.

“While results for March are mixed, the Colorado job market continues to stabilize,” department Director Donald Mares said in a news release. “Improving conditions are encouraging Coloradans to return to the labor force, contributing to the increase in the unemployment rate.”

Only people actively seeking work are counted in the unemployment figures.

The government sector added 5,300 jobs in March, compared with March 2009, which the state attributes to hiring for the 2010 Census and education. Jobs also increased 2,400 in education and health services, according to the state news release.

Jobs decreased year over year in construction, which saw the largest loss at 28,600 positions; trade, transportation and utilities; manufacturing; professional and business services; financial activities; leisure and hospitality; mining and logging; information; and other services.

The jobless rate increased in 39 of Colorado’s 64 counties, decreased in 19 and remained steady in six, according to the release. Cheyenne County had the lowest rate, 3.2 percent, and Dolores County had the highest, 19.9 percent.

Cheyenne County is in eastern Colorado, bordering Kansas, and Dolores is in southwestern Colorado, bordering Utah.

Nationally, unemployment was at 9.7 percent in March.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

This is the key number: The number of jobs in Routt County has decreased year over year. In March 2009, 15,212 people were working. Last month, 14,423 people were working. That’s a decrease of 789 jobs, or 5 percent.

We are in a downward spiral until the number of current employed vs year employed stops decreasing. Does appear that economic shrinkage in March vs year ago was not as severe as it was for Dec-Feb, but that is because March 2009 had a huge drop from Feb 2009 while March 2010 had a modest drop from Feb 2010. That can already be seen. Dec-Feb vs year ago showed twice as big year over year declines vs any other months in 20 years of data. Mar 2010 vs Mar 2009 "improved" 100% to only match the worse year over year declines in 20 years of data.

Last year Feb to May lost almost 4,000 jobs. Historically, that number is about 3,000. We did not see strong signs of job loss until April-May 2009 and so that 4,000 job loss for 2009 mud season is when the recession really hit our job market. We should expect April employment of about 12,900 and May of 12,000. Weaker or stronger than that will be either be an indication of continued economic weakness or recovery.

I do not agree with Scott Ford's employment indicator that he says suggests a turnaround in Q4 or so. I think the only thing making his indicator not so negative is that now we are seeing more people (workforce) leave the area than last year.

As of now, we are comparing 2010 recession employment vs 2009 recession numbers (as they say "easy comparisons"). So we should start seeing numbers that are closer to year ago recession numbers.


Scott Ford 5 years, 1 month ago

Good Morning Scott W -

I appreciate you disagreeing with me. I think debate with civility is welcomed in these blogs.

Although very tempting, focusing solely on the unemployment percentage it misses the bigger picture. I understand why this happens because unemployment is so heartfelt; however, the percentage rate is only one side of an issue. It is not the whole issue.

The Predictor Indicator you reference although it uses year-to-year changes in the number of jobs and labor force it does not predict unemployment percentages. It predicts the level of economic stress that is occurring in the county because of imbalance that between workforce and jobs. I know that this sounds on the surface counter intuitive. Let me if I can explain.

For example, let us assume we live in a county that is an isolated island and we make everything we consume ourselves. In addition, that everybody between the ages of 16 and 64 also works and they work full time jobs. That labor force in this island example totals 1,000. In our example, there are also 1,000 jobs. The calculated unemployment rate would be zero. Let us assume that it had been at zero for years. If 100 jobs were lost in a given month the calculated unemployment rate would spike to 10%. The folks that lost their job would reduce their spending, that would ripple through the economy of the island, and a few more folks would lose their jobs. The island economy would be under stress - its economy was contracting.

This ripple effect would eventually run its course. If there were no hope of these jobs, ever coming back the workforce without jobs would eventually leave the island. The economic stress would lessen and the economy itself would eventually rebalance and stop contracting. Although a smaller economy the unemployment rate would eventually return to zero.

In the real world nobody and particular no local/regional economy is an island. And of course zero unemployment does not exist. Things in Routt County are much more complex and influenced by a host of factors that boggles the mind. Some of these factors include but are not limited to that not all jobs are full time, not everybody counted the labor force works and personal financial resources including unemployment benefits allow folks to stay longer than they could in my silly island example.

The Predictor Indicator does not measure unemployment but attempts to measure the economic stress caused by the unemployment - it measures imbalance and identifies trends to determine if the imbalance is getting worse or better. Based on the March 2010 labor figures the Predictor Indicator for Moffat and Routt is essentially unchanged from February. Although not yet balanced It is not getting worse. Balance does not mean that the economy returns to some predetermined level of normal - I use other tools to do that.


Scott Ford 5 years, 1 month ago

Here is a question I would enjoy hearing from others about. Do unemployment benefits keep the unemployment rate high? I think it does. Congress recently extended employments benefits yet again. Continuing to extend unemployment benefits may actually result in delaying the inevitable.

This happens because unemployment insurance influences the jobs the unemployed look for. I think it is safe to assume that most folks receiving unemployment benefits would like to find work near where they live, and in their same general occupational area if possible. Who wants to move away from friends or family, or take a pay cut for a job in occupation that would not be their first choice.

I guess the hope behind extending benefits is that eventually jobs in the industry sectors that lost jobs will start creating jobs again. In some industry sectors this is just not going to happen.


Troutguy 5 years, 1 month ago

I think that's the million dollar question, Scott. On the one hand, these extended unemployment benefits have probably saved many families from financial ruin. But on the other hand, there are people out there 'gaming' the system, collecting benefits while not looking to get back to work. Why not create something like the CCC and put people to work, fixing our crumbling infastructure, maintaining our national parks, etc. At least we would be getting something for our dollar.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

Scott Ford, Oops, pasted more than I intended. The important number is NOT the number of unemployed. I think in a place like SB where so many come and go that workforce is pretty close to irrelevant. The important number is EMPLOYED.

We need to stop having month after month with 5% and worse fewer jobs than the year ago comparable number. That needs to stop real soon because from now on we are comparing against 2009 recession numbers.

Unemployment benefits can cause some people to stay on benefits and not accept jobs. But that might not be an entirely bad economic effect because it lets the active and better workers be the first to find jobs. Or be the among the first to move to the region that does have work. Right now there are few enough jobs around that people that always work simply cannot find any jobs. So unemployment benefits are not causing any worker than any employer would currently need to not apply for the available job.


Scott Ford 5 years, 1 month ago

Scott W - One of the challenges with the labor data is that the number of jobs and the number of employed are the same thing. What I cannot get as of yet is a good fix on how many jobs that have been lost were full time jobs. The employment data makes no distinction I am aware of between full and part-time employment. My assumption is that the largest contraction in the number of jobs in Routt County is due to far fewer part-time jobs.

There is data that supports this theory. Specifically associated with industry sectors where we typically see a higher number of part-time jobs. What is occurring is that the average wage per week is increasing. Industry Sector = Accommodation and Food Services / Average Weekly Wage 2007 = $361 2008 = $391 2009 = $392

From 2007 to 2009 we have seen a 12.8% decline in the number of jobs in this industry sector but a 8.6% increase in the average weekly wage associated with jobs for the same period.
(Source = 3rd Quarter data / Colorado Department of Labor and Employment)

So, if an individual was working 4 hours a week in one job and 40 hours in another job it was counted as two jobs. Losing the 4 hour job has far less impact than losing the 40 hour job.

Focusing on the number of employed can get goofy unless we know if that job was full or part time. Not to be misunderstood I appreciate that these part-time jobs contribute to a family's household income, however, the economic impact of losing a part-time job is not the same as a full time job.

I think if we can get a handle on the ratio of full to part-time jobs that have been lost, the approach you have proposed has great merit. Do you have any suggestion how we get a fix on this ratio?


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

Scott F: First your indicator also uses number employed so whatever inaccuracies it contains is also within your indicator.

Our local economy has 20% swings in the number of local jobs due to seasonal effects, The number of jobs during the peak seasons probably includes far more part time jobs than the number of jobs during mud season.

I'd love to see that wage data back to at least 2005. Because I think 2007 was a special case. People like caterers were having real problems finding staff so it was a year of having lots of different workers even though business was not up that much. So I think number of part time workers was probably inflated by people working part time for different employers.

I note that the wage data is the same for 2008 and 2009 so the loss of 1,000 or so jobs month by month from 2008 to 2008 is actually confirmed as being a real economic impact. Also, note that 2008 did not show significant job loss. So whatever credence you give to the numbers show 2008 as a really great year. And things since then being really bad.

Lastly, if you track number of jobs from 1990 then the charts show very consistent patterns with solid trend lines on prime/mud season numbers that mirror our regional economic growth. But last March/April show that things just fell apart. A seasonal dip that was averaging 2,500 jobs suddenly became nearly 4,000. And the numbers since then have been miserable. Not sure why credible data for 20 years suddenly becomes suspect now that it is weak and from a stock market view of charting, shows the job market now has a downward trend.


Scott Ford 5 years, 1 month ago

Hi Scott - Holding the same period constant (Jul - Sep) 3rd quarter and holding the same industry sector constant (Food Services and Accommodations), the average weekly wage data looks like this: 2006=$346 2005=$331 2004=$313 2003=$295 2002=$282 2001=$291 2001=$294


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

Hmm, So 2009 = $392 2008 = $391 2007 = $361 2006=$346 2005=$331 2004=$313 2003=$295 2002=$282 2001=$291 2001=$294

Look at that trend from 2003-2008 of 5%-9% annual increase. So 2007 and 2008 are not aberrations. Looks more like 2009 is the aberration breaking the upward trend. Obvious expectation would be for 2010 to be flat to down over 2009.

That there was such a strong increase in income is interesting and I don't believe widely known. Maybe it'll interest the numbers guy at the local EDC to ask, for example, the Resort Group and/or the Sheraton if that trend is reflected in their numbers and, if so, was it from more hours or better pay. A 50% increase in weekly pay from 2003 to 2008 for the service sector is a huge increase.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

Oops, not 50%, 33%. But still an admirable increase in weekly pay.


mmjPatient22 5 years, 1 month ago

Am I the only one that thinks the paper could benefit from some sort of "Scott v. Scott" section, where the two could be played off of each other like Spy v. Spy?


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

MMJ A paper that prints a Sudoku in which the hardest 5/5 puzzle is as pitiful as the Today's is not ready to print the type of discussion being held here.


Scott Ford 5 years, 1 month ago

Scott W - is a whole lot smarter than I am. He would kick my backside everytime.

I have a great deal of respect for Scott W's commitment to civility in the context of some crazy comments that are tossed about in these blogs. I respect that he uses his real name, which means he is willing to own what he says. By the quality of his postings, I know he has a heart of stewardship for the Yampa Valley and that means a lot to me. I look forward to reading his postings. I am sure many others feel the same way.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

Scott F: Please quit drinking. What you write when drunk after a day of fishing is getting embarrassing. On the off chance that you wrote that while sober, thank you.

Anyway, regarding the food and service wages increasing, I had someone suggest that the increase just reflects the overall trend of improved summer tourism and that the data for the winter months (which had relatively flat number of skier days) would not show such increases. Presumably, the data for spring and fall mud seasons would show such a decrease in the number of food/service jobs that the overall numbers are controlled by peak, not off season. But, of course, all of these suppositions should be tested against each quarter's data for the past 10 years or so.

I do greatly appreciate that my questions regarding the data and whether trends suggested by the data are supported by other data are often answered by Scott Ford. It shows that he cares that the data and trends that he presents has been questioned and that he can defend his conclusions. It is obvious that he is not merely presenting data to support the City government's or Chamber's or local RE industry's preferred PR campaign. (So he won't last in his job for more than a couple of years).

I was honestly disappointed that on a thead that Danny and others of SB 700 had posted that they failed to answer one of my simple questions regarding calculations. I argued that taking percentages of AMI (a statistical mean) was a poor practice because depending upon the distribution, the percentages could include almost everyone or almost no one. That proper method would be to specify some number (or fractional number) of Standard Deviations as that would promise that a known percentage of the local population would qualify for each category of SB 700 affordable housing. I was pretty confident that their calculation would result in far fewer locals qualifying in the future than would qualify now.

It continually amazes me that despite being told numerous times that months of supply of houses is considered the most important indicator of the real estate market, that this paper's Sunday real estate article refuses to mention it. I find it almost humorous that in a recent article with Scott Ford that the number was discussed, only to not be mentioned since then. I am to propose the "if it is mentioned then the news must be good" indicator: that the local real estate market will have recovered when months of supply is mentioned in consecutive weeks in the paper's Sunday real estate section.


Scott Ford 5 years, 1 month ago

Hi Scott W -

I limit myself to only 1 beer after I get off a river from a day of fishing. And most often that beer is Bud Lite Lime from a 6-pack I bought at City Market. So I stay fairly connected most of the time.

I have not been shunned by the City-School District or Chamber staff because of any data studies I have done. I do not expect that I will be. I do my best not to torture the any data set beyond what it can tell us. (I promise to never water board a data set.)

What does frustrate me occasionally is an unwillingness for community leadership to make decisions based upon trends that data clearly reveals. Alternatively, insist that a community survey be done to answer questions that data already exists for. Or hire experts from outside of the area and pay them big bucks to tell us stuff we already know. Or claim that national or statewide data does not apply because in Routt County we are so "unique". Or worse yet - start some program without taking the time to determine first how success is going to be measured.

I have no idea how long my tenure will be - but I am going to keep preaching the gospel of outcome measurements. "You measure what you want to improve because realistically you only improve those things that are measured."


Scott Wedel 5 years, 1 month ago

Scott F: You appear to fail to understand that surveys are typically designed to find the desired results while data has the uncanny ability to be objective. So of course government is going to want a survey and not existing data.

It'd be nice to have someone that collects the data so that government programs can be encouraged to set measurable goals and thus allowing the public to see if our money is being spent well or being wasted. (Wasn't the Iron Horse supposed to do more than require annual expenditures from the City general fund?).

I think it would be extremely educational if the EDC where to introduce the concept of economic incentives and economic barriers that are implicitly created with this or that proposed new ordinance. Such as how some rules can encourage the construction of luxury homes over modest homes and so on. Or that this rule for this town in an area with these choices is not going to have the desired effect - it will just mean that no business of that type will locate here.

So, enough griping, can you get the weekly wage data for other quarters for local service workers?


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