County unemployment falls to 6.8%

Across the state, April jobless rate hits 5.6 percent

The unemployment rate in Montezuma County has fallen year over year since 2010, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

April unemployment rates since 2010 have fallen steadily, from 9.7 percent in 2010 to 6.8 percent in 2014.

Though monthly unemployment numbers for this area skew higher in the winter, the January rates have followed the same pattern, falling from 10.7 percent in 2010 to 8.4 percent in 2014.

Across the state, the unemployment rate for April was 5.6 percent.

The trend can be attributed not only to job growth, but fewer people looking for work, said Donna Gravis a research consultant for Region 9 Economic Development Council.

The Federal Reserve estimates a healthy rate of unemployment is between 5 and 6 percent. This rate is created as people change occupations.

City Manager Shane Hale attributes the trend to an uptick in construction, expansion in energy and mineral exploration and a general improvement in the economy.

“Overall, the economy has been rebounding nicely,” said Hale.

Major construction projects in town include the new high school and the new Hampton Inn. The Hampton Inn is the first new hotel to be built in town in about 20 years and the construction recently got started on Hawkins Street just east of the Holiday Inn Express.

“A good construction project helps out all aspects of the economy,” he said.

Other new construction includes a dental clinic, gas station, a health clinic at Southwest Open School, McDonald’s and a recently opened O’Reilly Auto Parts Store.

This year, the city building permit office has been busy enough to add two new staff members.

“Our planning and building department is completely up to their necks with applications,” he said.

One potential area for more growth is in housing construction, he said. There are several subdivisions in the Cortez that received land use designation and had gone through most of the building permit process before the housing market crashed.

Oil and gas drilling and exploration has also experiencing significant growth, in part, because of the quality of the jobs.

Countywide, the number the number of oil and gas jobs expanded from 118 in 2013 to 188 jobs in 2014, Hale said.

Economic growth can be cyclical and as more people are employed, more money is spent and there is more incentive to grow business here, he said.