Latest indicators offer reason for thanksgiving

There’s a natural tendency to view economic indicators from all sides. That’s because indicators seldom offer news that’s either all good or entirely bad. The glass really can be half full and half empty at the same time. Economists similarly parse their pronouncements. While they might not say it in so many words, they use the caveat “on the other hand” long after they’ve run out of other hands.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, here’s a look at three economic indicators for which business owners and managers can generally be thankful:

Statistics reflect an improving labor market. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate rose four-tenths of a point to 3.4 percent in Mesa County in October, the latest month for which estimates are available. While joblessness has some up, the latest rate remains well below levels from a year ago. Moreover, separate measures of labor demand and unemployment rolls reflect positive trends. The Mesa County labor market hasn’t yet fully rebounded. Nor is the local market as robust as other areas of Colorado. Circumstances are improving, however.

Rising sales tax collections reflect an improving economy. The City of Grand Junction reported a 12.6 percent increase in combined sales and use tax collections in October compared to the same month last year. Mesa County reported an even larger proportional gain at 15 percent. Combined sales and use tax collections have increased on a year-over-year basis for seven consecutive months for the city and eight straight months for the county. The latest tax collections were driven — no pun intended — in large part by increasing automobile sales. But there were gains in other industry sectors as well. Increasing tax collections offer a clear signal of increased sales prompted by improving confidence and hiring.

Real estate activity remains brisk. For October, 474 real estate transactions worth a collective $118 million were reported in Mesa County. Compared to the same month last year, sales rose 19.7 percent and dollar volume jumped 32.6 percent. The median price of residential real estate transactions also has increased even as the number of permits issued for new home construction has surged. While the Mesa County real estate market has lagged behind other areas of Colorado in rebounding from the recession, the local market is now beginning to catch up.

To be sure, local economic indicators could be better. They almost always could be better. But the point is this: They’re getting better. That’s a trend for which business owners and managers can be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.