Indicators still reflect economic dichotomy

The dichotomy between increasingly encouraging national and state economic trends and the comparatively slow pace of recovery in the Grand Valley continues.

The latest national and state indicators couldn’t be more promising. A monthly measure of consumer confidence has rebounded to its highest level in nearly seven years, and an index forecasting economic performance in the U.S. signals accelerated growth in the second half of 2014. Meanwhile, a mid-year assessment of the Colorado economy is even more optimistic than the initial outlook released in December. If payrolls in the state grow by 68,000 as expected this year, Colorado will rank among the fastest-growing states in the country.

Here in the Grand Valley, the news is increasingly positive, although not as dramatically so.

Rising sales tax collections reflect what local officials see as improving conditions. With year-over-year increases in eight out of the last nine months, sales tax collections for Grand Junction and Mesa County during the first half of 2014 topped those for the first half of 2013. But the difference was slight at a little more than 1 percent.

The monthly unemployment rate in Mesa County edged up a tenth in June to 6.5 percent. Still, the latest rate was more than two points lower than the 8.8 percent reported for the same month last year. Over the past year, Mesa County payrolls have grown 946, but the overall labor force has shrunk 879 and remains well below pre-recession levels.

Certainly, economic conditions could be much worse in Mesa County. But they could be better, too. Here’s hoping they’re better sooner rather than later.