Mesa County tumbles to 57th in list of best-performing areas

Mesa County tumbled 54 spots in an annual ranking of how well small metropolitan areas create and sustain jobs.

The Grand Junction metropolitan statistical area, which equates to Mesa County, fell from third to 57th among 179 small metro areas ranked in the 2010 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index.

The annual rankings constitute a lagging index in reflecting job and wage growth for the five-year period between 2004 and 2009 and the one-year period between 2008 and 2009.

Mesa County experienced one of the fastest-growing economies in the country through late 2008, ranking seventh among small metro areas for job growth between 2004 and 2009.

Conditions changed rapidly, though, in the aftermath of downturns in natural gas exploration and production in the region as well as the broader economy. Mesa County ranked 151st for job growth  between 2008 and 2009. Between April 2009 and April 2010, the labor force declined 5.4 percent, ranking dead last among the small metro areas.

Mesa County fared slightly better in four other measures related to the economic output of high-tech companies. Mesa County ranked 92nd for growth in high-tech gross domestic product between 2004 and 2009 and 57th in the same measure for the one-year period between 2008 and 2009.

Among small metro areas ranked in the 2010 index, Pueblo fell 12 spots to 45th. Fargo, N.D. topped the list.

Among 200 large metro areas, five Colorado areas all fell in the 2010 rankings. The Fort Collins and Loveland area fared best at 50th, followed by Boulder at 56th, the Denver and Aurora area at 63rd, Colorado Springs at 99th and Greeley at 101st. Four Texas areas made the top 10, with the Killeen, Temple and Fort Hood area at No 1.