The overall economy in Chaffee County, as it relates to the unemployment rate and the labor force, stands out as one of the strongest rural counties in Colorado, said Ryan Gedney, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment senior economist.
Gedney said the industries driving the economy in Chaffee County are construction and tourism.
He said Chaffee County has a “low unemployment rate and has some of the strongest employment growth in rural compared to any county of its size.”
The quarterly census of employment wages showed Chaffee County had employment growth of 3 to 4 percent in 2016 and 2015.
Gedney said anything over 3 and 4 percent is considered robust. Statewide, Colorado’s employment growth in 2016 was 2.3 percent.
“Chaffee’s unemployment rate is 2.3 percent (Colorado’s is slightly higher at 2.6 percent). With a workforce of 9,277, October saw 9,066 of those individuals employed. There were 211 individuals out of work but interested in finding employment,” said Bill Thoennes, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment public information officer.
Thoennes said the 2.3 percent rate is from October, which is up from September’s 1.8 percent, but down from a year ago when it was 2.4 percent.
Gedney said a 2.3 percent unemployment rate is still very low, and unemployment numbers at the county level are not seasonally adjusted. He said it’s common to see big jumps when looking at numbers from month to month.
“The data from our household survey can get volatile when looking at smaller counties,” he said.
He said the change from September to October is a reflection of the shift from summer tourism to gearing up for the winter tourism season.
“Historically in Chaffee County, the unemployment rate will bump up from September to October, and has been the case since 1990,” said Gedney.
Gedney anticipates the unemployment rate in November to be higher than October.
“December is a mixed bag because Monarch ramps up. The unemployment can either fall or rise. January is always higher than December. Construction will not be at its peak over the winter, and this will drive up the unemployment rate as construction workers will be laid off for the season,” he said.
Although his office doesn’t forecast, especially at the county level, Gedney said he expects Chaffee County to be at the same rate next year.