Routt County holiday shoppers expected to boost December sales

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— A local economic report shows retail sales are up slightly compared with 2011, and holiday shoppers are expected to boost sales by 4 percent in December.

The report produced by Yampa Valley Data Partners uses recent economic indicators to produce a fourth-quarter forecast. The indicators are positive overall for the local economy.

In the latest report, an effort is made to help explain local unemployment numbers, said Kate Nowak, executive director of Yampa Valley Data Partners.

Unemployment figures can be misleading, she said, especially in small resort communities, where employments rates can vary greatly from month to month because of the seasonal nature of many jobs.

“Because we are such a small county, the rate fluctuations are really dramatic,” Nowak said.

For example, the unemployment rate in Routt County went from 8 percent in June to 7 percent in August.

Nowak explained that a better way to look at unemployment figures is by analyzing the workforce and the available jobs to create a unemployment stress indicator. For more than a year, the stress indicator has been positive meaning the number of available jobs are greater than the available workforce. Nowak said the indicator is well within the range of showing unemployment is creating only mild stress on the local economy.

Aside from unemployment, Nowak said the report shows a slight uptick in construction.

“Now we just need another 12 months of that,” Nowak said.

In Routt County, the median listing price of homes was up 5.6 percent in the third quarter of 2012 compared with the second quarter. The August median listing price of $664,500 is an increase of 20.8 percent compared with August 2011.

Low interest rates have continued to help attract potential home buyers.

“It’s been a good time to refinance and certainly buy if you haven’t,” Nowak said.

The average interest rate for a 30-year mortgage is forecast to stay at 4 percent or lower through January but could increase to 4.18 percent by February, she said.

“Just a note that they’re creeping back up or at least forecast to,” Nowak said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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