Economic forecast for Steamboat indicates more gloom early in 2011 | SteamboatToday.com

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Economic forecast for Steamboat indicates more gloom early in 2011

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Learn more about Yampa Valley Partners and its Community Indicators Project at http://www.yampavalleypartners.com.

— Consumer spending and retail sales will continue trending slightly upward early in 2011, but the local construction industry and overall employment market will remain very bleak, according to a regional economic forecast.

"We can expect between 3 and 6 percent increase in gross retail sales in the first quarter of 2011 (compared to first quarter 2010)," states the forecast produced by Yampa Valley Partners, which compiles and interprets national and local economic data to help community discussions. "(National) consumer spending has increased from a low of $55 (per day) in September to $81 in time for the holiday season in December."

Yampa Valley Partners' latest forecast provides data for Routt and Moffat counties' performance in several economic sectors, including real estate, retail, construction, cost of living, transportation, energy and "economic stress," an employment model contrasting the number of jobs to the number of workers.

The model tracks that ratio throughout the past 20 years and shows a clear message, Scott Ford said, about current unemployment levels in Routt and Moffat counties.

"Both of us are in the toilet," said Ford, director of the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative and a member of a Yampa Valley Partners' advisory board. While Ford said the gloomy market obviously is no surprise to the many people without work in Northwest Colorado, the latest economic stress model gives a deeper look into local unemployment trends.

The model shows, for example, that while Routt County's jobs-to-workers ratio was improving from early 2009 to early 2010 — moving closer toward equilibrium — the ratio again began widening, negatively, near July and remains on a sharply downward trend.

The model's current economic stress ratios easily are among the worst Routt County has seen since the early '90s.

"There's a lot of hardship out there," Ford said.

The forecast indicates a very slow construction industry for the first quarter of 2011 and home construction "at historical lows throughout the upcoming year," Ford said. But there also are some positive indicators, such as home prices, that are declining less rapidly. Ford said the forecast has a simple overall message.

"It's really: 'Be patient,'" Ford said. "We'll get better in increments, but it's not going to get better overnight."

The complete forecast is online with this story at http://www.steamboatpilot.com.

Kate Nowak, executive director of Yampa Valley Partners, said the forecast's wide range of data could provide valuable information for local business owners who are making projections for 2011.

"If I was a small business, I would use this as one of the tools that I have in my toolbox to see if I was going to make a major change," she said.