New numbers show Weld County lost jobs in 2016, despite initial indications that the county had gained them | MyWindsorNow.com
Sharon Dunn
sdunn@greeleytribune.com

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New numbers show Weld County lost jobs in 2016, despite initial indications that the county had gained them

The downturn in the oil and gas industry took a much larger toll on Weld County's economy than state experts had previously thought.

While officials believed Weld was gaining jobs amid the downturn, another look at 2016 reveals the county likely suffered the most throughout the state. Adjusted numbers reveal an expected 1.6 percent decline in jobs numbers for 2016, the most statewide. Initially, experts had initially said the county saw a 1.6 percent job increase last year.

"Throughout the year, it looks like (Weld) hit a bottom in February 2016, when the growth rate was negative 3.5 percent," Ryan Gedney, senior economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "And since then, through September, I'm seeing that rate climb to negative 1 percent. While it's still negative through September, we're definitely seeing some signs of improvement."

Those signs include rising oil prices, which have held steady above $50 a barrel for more than two months. Those prices are what producers had been looking to as a sign of recovery from a downturn that saw prices plummet to roughly $30 a barrel a year ago.

“Throughout the year, it looks like (Weld) hit a bottom in February 2016, when the growth rate was negative 3.5 percent”Ryan GedneySenior economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

All re-adjustments at this point are expectations only. Gedney said the numbers will be further vetted in March.

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Gedney re-stated jobs numbers Wednesday in the department's quarterly adjustment, which is based on actual numbers of jobs businesses must report quarterly to the state Labor Department. Monthly numbers that were showing job growth were based on a survey of businesses. The department updates its numbers quarterly. From this third-quarter adjustment, they can forecast estimated changes for the entire year.

In all, according to the readjustment, Greeley lost 1,600 jobs in 2016, versus adding 2,500 jobs in 2015. That ends up showing a 1.6 percent decline in job growth, compared to a 2.5 percent growth in jobs last year.

But adjusted numbers show the oil and gas industry's shrinkage through at least the third quarter of the year pushed Weld's numbers down into the negative.

Through the third quarter, the industry's jobs fell 14.2 percent, followed by a 4 percent drop in trade, transportation and utilities, and a 2.1 percent drop in construction. Those numbers counteracted growth in manufacturing (7.1 percent), information (5.5 percent), and other services (8.2 percent).

Although construction wasn't a big contributor to Weld's losses, it pushed the downward trend throughout the state.

"When you look at our downward expected revisions, construction on average accounted for 80 percent of the downward revisions," Gedney said.

Gedney reported construction dropped statewide by 12,800 jobs in September, more than double all job losses throughout the state. Readjusted numbers show growth, still, in the category at 4.5 percent rather the 13.1 percent that was expected based on monthly surveys.

Even with the downward revisions, Gedney said, Colorado sits squarely as the eighth-fastest growing state in the country in 2016.

"We expect that rate to be revised down, but wouldn't be surprised if Colorado wasn't in top 10 for job growth. If that happened, that would be sixth year with top ten growth rate," Gedney said.

Jobs growth rate

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on Wednesday revised expected job growth numbers for 2016 in all major metropolitan statistical areas in the state. All except Fort Collins and Colorado Springs are expected to be revised down for the year from previous estimates:

Boulder: 2.5 percent (from 2.8 percent)

Colorado Springs: 2.9 percent (2.2 percent)

Denver: 2.8 percent (from 3.2 percent)

Fort Collins: 3.7 percent (from 3 percent)

Grand Junction: -0.8 percent (from 0.4 percent)

Greeley: -1.6 percent (from 1.6 percent)

Pueblo: 1.6 percent (from 2.2 percent)

Statewide: 2.3 percent (from 2.6 percent)

Source: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment