Economic analysis no laughing matter

Go ahead and make all the jokes you want about economists.

Why did President Harry Truman call for a one-armed economist? Because Truman was frustrated all his other economists always added caveats to their statements. “On the other hand … on the other hand.”

How many economists does it take to change a light bulb? Seven, plus or minus 10.

Did you hear about the economist who dove into his swimming pool and broke his neck? He forgot to seasonally adjust.

In actuality, the information and insights economists provide are no laughing matter. Here in Mesa County, that’s especially true of the quarterly newsletters compiled by Nathan Perry, an economics professor at Colorado Mesa University.

Perry takes into account a lot of local indicators in putting together his newsletters — everything from drilling permits to labor estimates to real state sales to tax collections. In connecting all those data points, a picture of the local economy emerges. Fortunately, that picture has been an increasingly encouraging one, Perry says.  “I think as a whole, the news is good for Mesa County.”

Consider, for example, the front page summary from Perry’s newsletter for the first quarter:

The unemployment rate has decreased even as the labor force has grown and sales tax income has increased.

The real estate market has become a strong sellers market with rising prices and shrinking inventories. New home construction activity has increased.

Mesa County has experienced an increase in drilling permit applications, although energy prices and rig counts have remained steady.

Perry declines to recommend particular policies to further bolster the economy. He believes it’s his job to provide the numbers others can use in making decisions. Nonetheless, the outlook, for now, remains upbeat. And that’s no joke.