Moffat, Routt experience drops in unemployed workers
Craig — Yampa Valley Data Partners released its Fast Facts for November on Tuesday, showing upward trends in employment and drops in retail shopping in Moffat County.
Moffat County had 242 more workers employed in October of this year and 129 fewer unemployed workers compared to October of last year.
The unemployment rate dropped 33 percent in Moffat County in the same time frame, from 5.1 percent to 3.4 percent.
In Routt County there were 904 more employed workers in October 2014 compared to October 2013 and 304 fewer unemployed workers.
Routt’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.6 percent to 3.3 percent.
The report said the counties’ unemployment levels are the most favorable since October 2008, when Moffat County’s unemployment rate was 3.4 percent and Routt County’s unemployment rate was 4 percent.
Yampa Valley Data Partners Executive Director Keith Kramer said the unemployment drop isn’t coming from more employed workers, though. Instead, it’s coming from a decrease in unemployed workers.
“This means fewer people are working or actively seeking work. When this is coupled with the beginnings of economic recovery and a consequent increase in available jobs, we see unemployment rates drop to pre-recession levels,” Kramer said.
Kramer also said the aging of the population and peoples’ attitudes have an effect, as more people reach retirement age and workers who were previously searching for employment became discouraged during the recession and are no longer considered to be actively seeking work.
To be “actively seeking work,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person must be available for work and has applied for a job or contacted employers, friends, family members or a job agency about job opportunities.
“Overall, the Yampa Valley is experiencing a decline in its number of employed workers. There are 874 fewer employed workers in Moffat when comparing October 2008 to October 2014, and there are 881 fewer employed workers in Routt over the same period,” Kramer said.
Retail sales dipped 9 percent in Moffat County in the first five months of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013. Routt County, however, saw a 5 percent increase in retail sales in the first five months of this year compared to the same period last year.
The Moffat County lodging industry suffered the most while the construction trade grew.
Food and drinking and all other retail sales grew the most in Routt County, while construction experienced the biggest decline.
Randy Looper, owner of Craig’s Elk Run Inn, said 2014 has been the worst year for him since arriving in Craig 10 years ago.
“Over the previous years, 65 to 70 percent of my business is workers doing various things,” Looper said. “This year my business has been 80 percent tourists and hunters and 20 percent workers.”
He said the increase in hunters and tourists coming to Craig for events like Whittle the Wood and the Moffat County Hot Air Balloon Festival is great, but he can’t survive on just hunters and tourists.
The “various things” Looper described included maintenance work and infrastructure updates. Craig Station did not conduct its annual plant shut down in April, which Looper said threw off his profits. But it’s not just the Craig Station change in maintenance plans.
“People just aren’t spending money to do upgrades to do things,” Looper said. “I mean, it’s better than I thought it was going to be, but it’s still not good.”
Real estate looked good for both counties in November compared to October. Moffat had 24 percent fewer homes on the market, while Routt had 15 percent fewer. The number of foreclosures in each county dropped since the beginning of the year as well.
Oil and gas production in Moffat County has slowed since last year, but coal production increased by 12 percent through September of this year.
Routt County had an increase in gas production and a small increase in coal production.