Despite gains, Mesa County lags behind other metro areas in Colorado

Despite lower unemployment rates and higher housing prices, Mesa County continues to lag behind other metropolitan areas of Colorado in various measures of economic performance, according to a midyear report prepared at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Statewide, the Colorado economy continues to outpace the United States with larger increases in employment, personal income and home prices. Nonfarm payrolls in Colorado are projected to grow 55,800, about 2.2 percent, by the end of the year.

The research division of the Leeds School of Business at CU prepares an annual economic forecast for Colorado based on the recommendations of more than 100 business and government professionals statewide who serve on a steering committee. The division offers a midyear update.

Mesa County ranks last among seven metropolitan areas in Colorado for employment growth with virtually no gain in the year-over-year span ending in June.

Mesa County reported the second highest seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of the seven metro areas at 3.6 percent in June. That’s down from the 6.1 percent reported a year ago, but still higher than job rates that ranged this June from 2.1 percent in the Fort Collins and Loveland areas to 4 percent in Pueblo. The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 2.3 percent.

Mesa County posted the second lowest per capital personal income among the seven areas at less than $40,000. Only Pueblo was lower. Statewide, per capital personal income was estimated at $50,971 based on data for 2015.

Home prices also have appreciated at a slower pace in Mesa County than other metro areas. According to the Federal Housing Finance Authority, home prices in Mesa County increased nearly 6.6 percent between the first quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017. Statewide, home prices appreciated 9.9 percent.

Colorado ranked as the seventh-fastest growing state in 2016 in terms of its proportional population gain, but
87 percent of that growth occurred along the Front Range. Mesa County was the slowest growing metro area in the state with a 1.1 percent gain.

Colorado continues to outperform a national economy in the midst of its longest expansion following a major contraction. In 2016, gross domestic product grew 2 percent in Colorado compared to 1.6 percent in the United States.

The forecast for job growth in Colorado for 2017 was revised downward 7,600, but with gains in most sectors.