Garfield County unemployment rate lower than state, rest of U.S. |

Garfield County unemployment rate lower than state, rest of U.S.

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County residents are faring much better than most throughout the state, and the rest of the nation, according to statistics reported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The county’s preliminary unemployment rate was reported at 5.9 percent through November 2009, according to Julia LaVigne, owner of Ribbon Demographics and Housing Analysis LLC in New Castle. Statewide, the unemployment rate was reported at 6.9 percent, while the nation’s rate was reported at around 10.2 percent.

LaVigne presented an overview of current employment and other local demographics and economic trends in the fourth installment of the Eye on the Economy series Thursday at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. The presentation was sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

The statistics showed that Garfield County started 2009 with an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent. However, that rate rose rapidly to 7 percent in March and then tapered off slowly for the rest of the year. October saw unemployment at 5.6 percent.

“It was pretty stable through the fall,” she said.

However, LaVigne said that preliminary numbers for November 2009 show a “slight uptick” in unemployment rates again.

“But this is only a minor change,” she said.

There were increases in both labor force and employment rates in the summer months of June, July and August. But those numbers began declining again in September.

These numbers indicate a lasting recession, however, and LaVigne said that the numbers indicate that the economy remains strong, compared to the early ’90s when the national unemployment rate was around 12 percent.

Historically, she said, it looks as though Garfield County is coming off one of the most stable periods of unemployment over the past 20 years.

Regardless, the most recent labor statistics from the Colorado Department of Labor and Unemployment show Colorado adding around 1,000 jobs between September and October 2009. However, the state shed more than 100,000 jobs between October 2008 and October 2009.

Similar to the unemployment rate, the county’s housing market has taken a beating in the past year as well.

According to LaVigne’s report, median and average residential real estate sales prices dropped 10 percent from 2008 through October 2009.

However, according to Michelle James, co-owner and broker with Vicki Lee Green Realtors in Glenwood Springs, the numbers she’s seen indicate the decrease in sales prices to be more like 12 to 15 percent in the past year.

“We’re seeing a higher drop,” James said. “More like 1 to 1.5 percent a month.”

LaVigne used statistics from local title company Land Title Guarantee Co., which showed that the majority, more than 30 percent, of single-family homes purchased through October 2009, were between $200,000 and $300,000. That is down from the previous two years where the majority of homes purchased were between $300,000 and $400,000.

“Residential real estate sales, as tracked by Land Title Guarantee Company, show numbers of sales continuing to fall after peaking in mid 2007,” the report stated.

“Whether this means that the values have dropped, or that simply only smaller houses came on the market, we don’t have that information,” LaVigne said. “But it does show that there has been a shift of one kind or another.”

However, median home values throughout Garfield County have increased around 50 percent since 2000 through January 2009. The only exception was Parachute’s median home values, which showed a 35 percent increase for the same period.

This section of the report, which cited Nielsen Claritas Research as the source, reported a median home price for Garfield County at $277,067. Carbondale had the highest median home price at just over $350,000, followed by Glenwood Springs at $325,600, while Parachute was the lowest at $120,000. These prices, however, were estimates as of January 2009.

“It’s interesting to see just how the values increase in price the closer you get to Aspen,” LaVigne said.

Contrary to sinking home values and transactions, the Glenwood Springs’ rental market remains healthy.

LaVigne’s report stated that “vacancy rates in Glenwood stay very low – most recently reported at 1.5 percent,” for the first quarter of 2009.

A vacancy rate of 5 percent is considered a “stable market,” LaVigne said.

The vacancy rate fell from 6.3 percent for the first quarter of 2004, to 2.1 percent in 2005. However, the highest spike in vacancy rate since then, reported by the Colorado Division of Housing and Colorado Economic and Management Associates, was in 2007 at 2.2 percent.

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