Montrose’s labor market recovered from a 12.3% unemployment rate in April 2020 to a rate of 5.1% the following October, according to a quarterly Montrose County Economic Update report from Nathan Perry, an associate professor of economics at Colorado Mesa University.
The trend to end 2020 is continuing in 2021 with the local labor market, which is trending up, according to the data. In Q2 2021, the labor force grew to a high of 23,232. In fact, 1,845 more people in Montrose are employed than five years ago.
The numbers come with local businesses reporting struggles hiring employees. Some have argued it’s due to the unemployment benefits people have been receiving during the pandemic. But there’s also the seasonal swing to consider, due to agricultural needs in the area, which adds to the total.
Other numbers indicate that people are opting for jobs with higher wages. Montrose County unemployment trends (from Q3 2019 to Q2 2020) show the most job losses in manufacturing, accommodation and food services and administrative and waste services, two of which have average weekly wages (as of Q3 2020) of $636 or less.
The biggest job gains were in retail trade, health care and public administration. Health care and public administration both featured average weekly wages (Q3 2020) of at least $893, with public administration topping out at $1,302.
“You want really solid job creation, not just low-end wage jobs, but you want those middle and high and wage jobs so people can transition up,” Perry said, “and so what you want is you want wage growth, and you want jobs to pay insurance. You know you want those manufacturing service jobs, you want professional technical service jobs.
“...So how do we increase the standard of living? I want to see job growth and I want to see wage growth. And I want to see high quality job creation.”
Montrose is seeing an uptick in its labor market despite the federal unemployment benefits, set to expire Sept. 6. (in Colorado, it’s set to expire Set. 4).
“We’re seeing positive employment growth out of this downturn and COVID,” Perry said. “I think that’s very positive.”
It’s clear local entrepreneurs have run with that positivity, at least according to local data. Colorado’s new business filings recorded an annual increase for Q2 of 2021, according to a report released by the University of Colorado Boulder and Jena Griswold, the secretary of state.
The report, completed by the Leeds Business Research Division at CU Boulder alongside the secretary of state’s office, revealed new business filings increased 25.7% year-over-year, totaling 39,252 for Q2. In Q2 2020, there were 31,223 filings.
There was a 12.3% decrease in fillings from Q1, though it’s a seasonal occurrence — the first quarter usually records the most filings for the year.
The latest quarter adds to what’s been a record year-over-year percentage gain for 12 month total filings, according to the report, with a 26.3% increase from last year (from 124,542 to 157,300).
In Montrose County, new business filings increased 1% in Q2 (as of June), from 405 (2020) to 409 (2021), revealed in a Montrose County Economic Update from Perry.
The increase in filings is a good indicator of small business activity in Montrose, Perry said, rather than a comprehensive outlook on how local business is impacting the economy.
“It’s possible that the stay-at-home environment has created more ambition for this type of employment,” Perry said of entrepreneurship in the area.
Once unemployment benefits cease, it could potentially paint a much more clear picture of the unemployment rate and the labor market, according to Perry’s report. It would take some time before such a trend is reflected in ensuing quarterly reports, though.
Montrose is expected to add at least 25,000 people by 2050. It’s been trending upward since 2013, according to the data.
Though Montrose is expanding in population, Perry said he isn’t sure if growth can keep up with lack of housing in the area.
“No, I don’t, because what’s gonna happen is you’re not going to have the workforce necessary for it,” Perry said when asked if Montrose can keep expanding without adequate housing. “So I know that Montrose is working on it but labor supply shortages will be a constraint to growth.
“I’m sure it will work itself out over the next year or two. But in the short run, I think it’s a constraint to growth, yes. And that’s not just Montrose stats, there are a lot of places that have a housing shortage right now that are experiencing this, as we speak, so it’s not a Montrose specific problem.”
A Q3 2021 report is expected to be released this fall.
Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.