Whitney Phillips
wphillips@greeleytribune.com

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March 18, 2014
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Weld County gained 5,200 more jobs in 2013, highest growth rate in a decade

Over the last year, Weld County saw its highest job growth numbers in at least a decade, gaining 5,200 jobs and far surpassing the annual growth rate of any other area in the state, according to state numbers released Monday.

Weld saw an average annual growth rate of 5.2 percent in 2013, well above the next highest rate of 3.6 percent in Denver, according to state numbers.

“That’s not surprising given all the oil and gas activity going on there,” said Alexandra Hall, chief economist for the state’s Department of Labor and Employment.

A decade ago, from January 2003 to January 2004, Weld gained 1,100 jobs. From January 2012 to January of 2013, Weld gained 3,800 jobs but lost 2,300 from December to January.

Oil and gas and construction contributed to half of all new jobs over the last year. Hall said growth in the oil and gas industry typically leads to growth in other areas of the economy.

“Not only is the area adding jobs in what is a relatively high-paying industry — the oil and gas industry pays well above the state average — but those types of jobs have a much greater economic impact because the people earning those types of jobs have a greater purchasing power,” Hall said in a conference call with reporters Monday.

From December to January 2014, Weld lost 1,600 jobs, much of it in the retail and businesses services, and leisure and hospitality sectors. Even the mining and construction sector dipped by about 200 workers in that month.

And while the state’s unemployment rate dipped further, Weld’s grew somewhat to 6.8 percent in January ‘14 from the December rate of 6.0 percent. It’s likely the losses, at least in retail, reflect the end of the Christmas hiring season. Economists will say that the numbers are highly volatile once the sample size gets smaller, making monthly county fluctuations less reliable.

Overall, the state also saw its highest growth rate in more than 10 years.

“If you had asked me toward the beginning of 2013, I would not have been confident that we were going to reach this level of growth,” Hall said. “At a 3 percent growth rate, that is the fastest rate of growth our state has seen since the year 2000, when Colorado grew at 3.8 percent.”

Statewide, nonfarm payroll jobs increased 63,200 with an increase of 59,400 in the private sector and an increase of 3,800 in government. There were no significant over-the-year losses.

According to the survey of households, the state unemployment rate decreased one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.1 percent. The national unemployment rate decreased one-tenth of one percentage point over the same period to 6.6 percent.

Last year at this time, Weld’s unemployment rate was at 8.6 percent, according to the state release.

Comparatively, Fort Collins/Loveland’s unemployment rate also increased to 5.5 percent from the 4.7 percent registered in December. In January 2012, the Fort Collins-Loveland rate was 6.5 percent.

Grand Junction had the highest unemployment rate among larger metro areas in the state at 8.3 percent, followed by Colorado Springs at 8.1 percent.

The Boulder-Longmont metro area had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.1 percent, while its growth rate in 2013 was below the state’s average.

The metro area rates are not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, while the state’s rate is.

Weld has steadily gained jobs since January 2004, losing only 200 from 2008 to 2009, followed by 4,200 from 2009-10. In most of those years, Weld lost a substantial number of jobs from December to January.

Hall said it’s difficult to predict whether we’ll continue to see such strong numbers in job growth.

“It’s hard to be too optimistic when you still see a pretty tepid growth going on at the national level,” she said. “It’s just hard to say if or when that tepid growth might become a negative drag on the Colorado economy. At the same time, what we’ve been seeing in Colorado since the beginning of 2011 is growth exceeding that of the nation and essentially just getting stronger relative to the national growth.”

Tribune Business Editor Sharon Dunn contributed to this story.


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