Tracking trends: Economics anything but dismal to professor monitoring local indicators

Nathan Perry works as an associate professor of economics at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Perry not only teaches a variety of courses, but also writes quarterly economic newsletters tracking indicators in Mesa and Montrose counties. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Nathan Perry works as an associate professor of economics at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Perry not only teaches a variety of courses, but also writes quarterly economic newsletters tracking indicators in Mesa and Montrose counties. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Nathan Perry takes into account a lot of information in putting together his quarterly economic newsletters — everything from drilling permits to labor estimates to real estate sales to tax collections. In connecting all those data points, an encouraging picture emerges, Perry says. “I think as a whole, the news is good for Mesa County.”

Energy development has accelerated even as the unemployment rate has dropped. Real estate sales have increased, as have sales and use tax collections.

An associate professor of economics at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Perry spends most of his time teaching upper-division courses in economics as well as business statistics, money and banking and quantitative decision-making. But his job also includes producing economic newsletters for Mesa and Montrose counties, and Perry loves his job.

While economics has been described as the “dismal science,” Perry disagrees. “I’ve never thought of it that way. I’ve always thought of it as the analytical science.”

As Perry says he discovered for himself as a student in an introductory macroeconomics course, economics and economic analysis offer a way to produce useful information in particular and gain greater understanding in general. “Economics, at least to me, is my way to understand the world.”

Perry has worked at CMU since 2010. He previously worked in Salt Lake City as an adjunct professor at Westminster College and graduate instructor at the University of Utah.

Perry holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Westminster College and a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Utah.

In addition to his work teaching, Perry has conducted research and worked on reports on such topics as the affects of natural amenities on home prices, the economic effects of the use of trails on public lands, various determinants of participation in outdoor recreational activities and the effects of natural gas price on energy development. Perry says he worked on several of the reports with Tim Casey, a political science professor at CMU.

Perry also writes newsletters offering quarterly updates on economic indicators and trends in Mesa and Montrose counties.

The newsletters offer information about the labor and real estate markets, energy development activity and tax collections. Perry also includes national economic indicators.

Perry says he collections information from a variety of city, county, state and federal government agencies as well as some local industry sources, such as Bray Real Estate.

The goal, he says, is to provide what he calls a “one-stop shop” that offers a range of information to a broad audience.

According to his newsletter for the first quarter of 2018, most indicators for Mesa County are encouraging, Perry says:

The labor force has stabilized, he says, with increased payrolls and lower unemployment rates.

The real estate market has become a strong sellers market with rising prices and shrinking inventories. New home construction activity has increased.

Mesa County has experienced an increase in drilling permit applications, although energy prices and rig counts have remained steady, he says.

Increasing sales and use tax collections reflect more spending.

“I think the Mesa County economy is solid,” Perry says.

While some people compare current economic conditions with those that occurred during the energy development boom that preceded the downturn, the comparison isn’t necessarily a fair one, Perry says.

Recent growth has occurred at slower pace, he says, but the economy also has diversified.

Meanwhile, the national economy remains strong, he says, with low unemployment rates and high consumer confidence and industrial production. The question, he says, is whether or not the latest business cycle has peaked or there’s still room for additional growth. There’s not yet a consensus.

Perry believes the economic information he supplies meets what he sees as a growing demand given the increasing awareness of the effects of economic trends on people’s livelihoods and, in turn, their lives.

At the same time, he says he enjoys the process. “It’s what I do for a living.”

Download quarterly economic newsletters for Mesa and Montrose counties online from www.coloradomesa.edu/business/economic-newsletter.html.