Wages steady, but total jobs down in Routt County

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— The latest employment information from Yampa Valley Data Partners shows that the number of jobs in Routt County is at its lowest level since 2001. However, average wages, when adjusted for inflation, have grown steadily, and the average wage here still compares well to the level families need to be self-sufficient.

The executive reference of the Data Partners’ 2012-13 Community Indicators Project shows that in 2009, the average Routt County hourly wage of $20.19 was substantially higher than the self-sufficiency wage for a family of two adults and two children. That wage was $14.78 per adult.

Yampa Valley Data Partners Executive Director Kate Nowak said the mix of full-time and part-time jobs in the region factors into the average hourly wage statistics.

“One thing is that there are fewer part-time jobs, so when you look at it, that boosts average hourly wage,” she said.

The source of the information is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute.

The data show that average wages in neighboring Moffat County, when compared to those in Routt, were as close to parity in 2009 as they had been for a decade. The wage in Routt was $20.19, and in Moffat it was $20.11. The big difference between the two counties was that in Moffat, the self-sufficiency wage level was $10.87 per adult in a family of four, while it was $14.78 in Routt.

The hourly average wages in the two counties, adjusted for inflation, have been very close to each other since 2001, when the adjusted wage in Moffat was $17.72 and in Routt was $17.16.

However, the 2009 per capita income in Routt County was $49,139, compared to Moffat’s $38,469. Yampa Valley Data Partners concluded that the disparity is attributable to a growing share of income derived from pension payments and investments in Routt, as opposed to actual job wages.

“Both counties continue to drive a majority of their personal income from working,” the report observes. “This labor-source income in Moffat County over the past 10 years has averaged about 75 percent of total personal income. In Routt County, labor-source income accounts for 70 percent, but in the past few years has been trending toward 65 percent.”

Nowak said the trend in Routt reflects the number of people relocating here who are not as reliant on employment for their income.

“When you look at in-migration in terms of income, we saw a big jump in 2008,” Nowak said. “We know this from Internal Revenue Service data. I would say it’s early retirees — a person who is 55 and retired and getting their income from investments.”

The top three private-sector industries in Moffat and Routt counties were quite different from one another in the past decade in terms of the income they generated and the number of jobs they contributed.

In Moffat, mining ranked third in terms of employment but first in income. Utilities ranked second in both measurements. Construction was third in terms of income in Moffat County.

New residential construction in both counties pales in comparison to the peak of 2005. And in Routt, construction was the top-ranked source of both wage income and employment as of 2009. Health care/social assistance was the second-highest source of income, and retail trade ranked third. In terms of employment, accommodations/food service ranked second, and real estate ranked third.

The separate 2012 first quarter newsletter released in January by Yampa Valley Data Partners shows that the actual number of jobs in Routt County as of the first quarter of 2011 stood just above 12,000. That compares to more than 16,000 jobs in the corresponding quarters of 2007 and 2008.

It’s significant that the number of jobs here goes through seasonal swings on an annual basis that see the number of jobs change by a factor of 1,000 to 1,500 within the same calendar year. For example, within 2007, when the economy was peaking, the number of jobs ranged from about 14,750 to about 16,500.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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