Two important indicators are headed in opposition directions, which constitutes good news for the Mesa County economy.
The monthly unemployment rate slipped another two-tenths of a point to retreat to 7.9 percent in March. That means the jobless rate has backed off four-tenths of a point from January, when the rate typically spikes to its highest level of the year.
The March rate is almost a point lower at this time last year, although still a point higher than December.
While any downward trend in the unemployment rate is welcome, the local labor market continues to lag behind other areas of Colorado as many employers remain reluctant to substantially expand their operations or staffs. The statewide unemployment rate edged up a tenth of a point in March, but was far lower at just 6.2 percent.
Meanwhile, sales tax collections in Grand Junction and Mesa County resumed their upward trend in March. Combined sales and use tax collections were up 2 percent in the city in March compared to the same month last year.
The county reported a 3.1 percent increase in sales tax collections.
Sales tax collections in the city and county have increased on a year-over-year basis in five out of the last six months. Sales tax collections offer a key measure of retail sales and consumer spending, an important component of the broader economy.
While separate measures, the unemployment rate and sales tax collections also are correlated. As more people find jobs and increase earnings, spending tends to increase and along with it tax collections. As businesses enjoy increased sales, more employees eventually are needed to keep pace with demand.
Here’s hoping the jobless rate and sales tax collections continue to head in opposite directions, and at a faster paster. The sooner the better.