Outlook for 2015 brings tidings of comfort and joy

The holiday season brings tidings of at least comfort and perhaps even joy to business owners who’ve struggled through the slow economic recovery in the Grand Valley. The prospects for a prosperous new year appear promising.

While past performance offers no guarantee of future results, several economic indicators point to improving conditions. An outlook of cautious optimism seems warranted.

Sales tax collections, a key indicator of retail sales, continue to increase on a year-over-year basis. According to reports for November, the latest month available, city sales and use tax collections increased 5.1 percent and Mesa County collections increased 1.4 percent over the same month in 2013. The latest numbers extend an upward trend in tax collections with year-over-year increases in 13 out of the last 14 months.

Increasing real estate activity in Mesa County offers yet another encouraging indicator. Both the number and dollar volume of real estate transactions in Mesa County through November 2014 top those for the same span in 2013. The trend is expected to continue in 2015.

But wait, there’s more. The latest results of a member survey conducted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce confirm the increasingly upbeat expectations of local business owners and managers. Chamber members were asked in the survey how they think their businesses will fare in 2015. A total of nearly 45 percent of those who responded said they anticipate 2015 will be somewhat or substantially more prosperous than 2014. Nearly 44 percent said they expect 2015 will be similar to 2014.

The monthly unemployment rate in Mesa County dropped to 4.1 percent in October, the latest month for which estimates are available. Over the past year, the jobless rate has dropped more than three points to its lowest level in six years.  Labor demand as measured by the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction has increased, as have average annual wages in the county. The sticking point, of course, is the overall labor force in Mesa County remains well below peak employment levels in 2008, although the comparison might not be fair given the energy boom under way at that time.

An annual economic forecast compiled at the University of Colorado offers a nice summary of the situation in stating Mesa County is “poised for a good year in 2015.” Here’s hoping that forecast comes true.