Connect the dots for an encouraging picture

The latest indicators offer an opportunity to once again attempt to connect the dots and, hopefully, complete a picture of the Grand Valley economy. For the most part, that picture is more encouraging.

Additional information is available elsewhere in this issue of the Business Times, but a quick review here is in order:

One of the most encouraging indicators of all is a 1.5-point drop in the latest unemployment rate in Mesa County to 3.8 percent. That’s the lowest level since the jobless rate stood at 3.8 percent in October 2008. It’s too early to tell whether or not the decline signals the local labor market has finally begun to recover in earnest. But the combination of an increase in payrolls and decrease in the ranks of those counted among the unemployed always constitutes a good thing. There’s a ways to go, though, before the local market has returned to prerecession levels and a peak labor force.

Increasing real estate activity in Mesa County continues to point to one of the best years for the local market since before the recession. For April, real estate transactions were up 15.8 percent over the same month last year. Dollar volume increased 20.1 percent on a year-over-year basis. For the first four months of 2017, transactions increased 15.8 percent and dollar volume jumped 18.3 percent over the same span in 2016. More remarkable, the busy season for real estate activity hasn’t yet started.

The latest sales and use tax collection numbers for the City of Grand Junction hadn’t been posted as of the press deadline. But the numbers for Mesa County for April reflected a 10.3 percent increase in sales tax collections compared to the same month last year and an 11.4 percent gain in use tax collections. With increases in the last two months, county tax collections have finally moved ahead of last year. That’s welcome news since sales tax collections offer the best measure of sales.

The outlook for the tourism industry, yet another important component of the Mesa County economy, is upbeat. Key indicators, new attractions and upcoming events all point to more tourists and tourism dollars. As if on cue, lodging tax collections were up 5.5 percent in April on a year-over-year basis after five months of declines.

More generally, local business news includes the announcements of new operations, services and expansions.

Mesa County still hasn’t recovered economically to the same extent as other areas of Colorado. But at least the emerging picture is more encouraging.