Moffat, Routt counties show signs of economic recovery

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— The economy in Moffat and Routt counties continues to recover gradually from the recession as signaled by a dip in unemployment.

Yampa Valley Data Partners on Wednesday released its latest Fast Facts report, which calculated market trends and data through July for both counties.

Routt County saw a 10 percent dip in unemployment in July, logging a 5.6 percent unemployment rate compared with 6.6 percent in June. The unemployment rate in Moffat County dropped to 6.1 percent in July from 6.7 percent in June.

“More people are getting jobs, and there’s a nice balance between workforce and the number of people looking for jobs,” said Kate Nowak, executive director of Data Partners. “That’s all good stuff, and it means that more people are employed.”

In May, Moffat and Routt counties’ taxable retail sales combined totaled $81.5 million, which is a 0.5 percent increase compared to the same month last year.

“I think Moffat is going to see stronger retail sales in the summertime, and Routt has been strong this year overall,” Nowak said.

Routt County saw a 0.2 percent decline in year-over-year retail sales, while Moffat County’s year-over-year sales jumped 1.6 percent.

“I don’t think any of us saw it,” said Liz Davis, who owns the Giving Tree retail store on Yampa Avenue in downtown Craig. “It was very quiet this summer. I didn’t see any of my tourists from Steamboat.”

Although data showed a slight decrease for Routt County, most downtown Steamboat businesses didn’t feel the drop, said Lindsay Dillenbeck, owner of F.M. Light & Sons.

“It’s been a solid summer for all the downtown businesses,” Dillenbeck said. “The summer started off slow into June, but things really picked up.”

In real estate, average listing prices in July in Routt County dipped 7 percent to $505,000 compared with June. Moffat County’s average listing price held steady in July at $189,000, yet the number of foreclosures rose from three to eight. Foreclosures in Routt stayed the same in June.

Perhaps the biggest percentage change in the Fast Fact’s report was the increase in oil and gas production in Moffat County. Year-to-date oil production increased 37.5 percent compared with last year.

“It isn’t normal. Oil and gas is cyclical. This year, oil has been very strong in Moffat. Same thing with gas,” Nowak said. “That means the industry sector is doing very well.”

Year-to-date natural gas production increased 10.4 percent in Moffat County compared with 2012. Routt County generally sees very little oil and gas production business, Nowak said.

Oil and gas production was strong for Moffat, but numbers from the coal industry show a different story. The coal industry year-to-date in Moffat County dropped 15.8 percent from the same period last year and increased 4.7 percent in Routt.

“The coal is struggling,” Nowak said. “Every year, they do maintenance in the mines that often puts coal production behind.”

Statewide, coal production was down 13.9 percent, according to Data Partners’ Fast Facts report.

Noelle Leavitt Riley can be reached at 970-875-1790 or nriley@CraigDailyPress.com.

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