Economic indicator report shows diversity in Routt and Moffat counties

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Yampa Valley Data Partners has released its Community Indicators Report, which highlights a variety of economic trends in Moffat and Routt counties.

Each indicator gives government officials, businesses and community members an idea of Northwest Colorado’s economic health. The report comes out every two years.

“The idea is that by taking measurements that are repeatable every two years, we can gauge if we’re getting closer or farther from the visions we have for our communities,” said Keith Kramer, executive director of YVDP. “The meaning is determining if we’re heading in the right direction.”

Top 3 private industry sectors and annual income

The report outlines the top three private industry sectors for both counties, with mining, health care and retail trade topping the list in Moffat County and accommodations, retail trade and construction taking the cake in Routt.

“The number of jobs accounted for by the top three employment sectors in Moffat County has remained relatively stable — between 35 to 40 percent — over the last decade,” the report states.

Job numbers in Routt County have changed in the past 10 years because of a slump in construction jobs, according to the report.

“Prior to 2009, Routt’s top three sectors accounted for 45 percent of its jobs. Since then, that figure has dipped to 35 percent,” the report states, specifically highlighting the decrease in construction.

The report outlines where the sources of income come from in both counties. In Moffat, mining, public administration and retail trade make up the top three sources of income for residents, with the per capita income ringing in at $45,804.

Routt County’s top three sectors of income are retail trade, health care and construction, and the per capita income is $53,834.

“Over the past 35 years, the per capita income in Moffat County has been increasing at a rate of two times the rate of inflation. Both counties continue to derive a majority of their personal income from working. Labor source income in Moffat County over the past 10 years has averaged about 75 percent of personal income,” the report states.

However, that figure has shifted greatly in Routt County in the past 10 years, with labor source income dipping from 70 percent to 60 percent of total personal income.

That means that residents of Routt County are relying on retirement, social security and perhaps rental properties for income as opposed to labor jobs, Kramer said.

“The population is getting older in general,” Kramer added. “It’s a growing inequality into richer and poorer. It’s an interesting phenomenon.”

Population continues to grow

The population in both counties during the past 20 years has grown by about 10,000 people, with Routt County seeing the majority of the growth, according to the report.

“In Moffat County, natural growth accounts for about 80 percent of the 20-year change in population. In Routt County, the reverse is true — net migration accounts for 80 percent of the 20-year population change,” the study states.

Perhaps the most significant figure from the population report is that between 2000 and 2011, Moffat County’s population increased by only 252 people, Kramer said.

In Routt, the population grew by 3,411 people during the same period.

“This growth (in Routt) has been driven by a balanced combination of natural population increases and net migration,” the report states.

Unemployment rates dip

Unemployment in both counties has experienced significant declines.

As of December, Moffat County’s unemployment rate was 5.2 percent — a large dip from the October 2012 rate of 8 percent. Routt’s unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in December 2013, compared to 6.3 percent in October 2012.

“The good news with unemployment is that unemployment is down a great deal since the great recession,” Kramer said. “It’s definitely a good indication of a solid economy.”

The 12-month average unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in Moffat County and 5.8 percent in Routt.

“Over the past 20 years, the unemployment rate in Moffat County has exceeded the state of Colorado’s average for the year 11 times. In Routt County, the unemployment rate has exceeded the state’s average six times,” according to the study.

Coal, gas and oil production remains diverse

As of September 2013, about 350,000 tons of coal was produced in Moffat County, marking a 19 percent decline in coal production from September 2012.

“Year-to-date coal production levels reached 2.9 million tons, well below the 3.4 million tons that had been produced as of the previous fall,” the study states. “Overall, the 12-month average for coal production in Moffat County continued to decline through September 2013.”

The 12-month average of coal production in Routt also dropped to 596,000 tons.

Through November, year-to-date coal production was down 20 percent in Moffat, 18 percent in Routt and 31 percent statewide.

“The glimmer of hope with coal is that there’s still some talk that coal exports could eventually be in demand,” Kramer said. “The Colorado coal is such clean-burning coal (which means higher demand). As of this moment, it’s unknown if coal exportation will replace the declining domestic demand.”

The good news is that oil and gas production is stable, especially in Moffat County, keeping the energy industry in Northwest Colorado diverse, Kramer said.

“Gas production is holding steady in Moffat,” Kramer said. “Gas production in Routt is really, really small.”

In September, about 819,000 mcf of natural gas was produced in Moffat County — a figure that mirrors the production in September 2012. In Moffat, the 12-month average of natural gas rang in at 1,373,000 mcf.

Those figures are expected to increase, though.

“With Houston-based Southwestern Energy purchasing (mineral) leases from Shell Oil/Quicksilver Resources and targeting natural gas liquids, natural gas and crude oil contained in the Niobrara formation … figures potentially could be on the rise,” the report states.

Oil production was increased in Moffat County in 2013, compared to previous years.

For instance, production doubled from 20,000 barrels in 2005 to 40,000 in 2013, according to the report.

Yet, oil production in Routt County is stable, with the 12-month average in 2013 logging 4,400 barrels, which is about the same as 2012.

“There is some hope for the energy market overall in both counties,” Kramer said.

YVDP mines data from a number of governmental sources, including the census bureau, the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“The data itself is important. What’s really important is the interpretation of how it affects the economy,” Kramer said. “It’s to see if our economy has diversity.”

Contact Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or nriley@CraigDailyPress.com.

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