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Unemployment picture brightens in May

Unemployment in Archuleta County took a significant dip during May, falling from 11.1 percent in April to 10 percent.

Unfortunately, for the county, those numbers still remain well above the 9.1 percent national average — common for rural Colorado counties (which averaged well over 12 percent for May 2011).

In fact, Colorado as a whole did worse in May than in April with unemployment rising from 8.3 percent to 8.5 percent statewide.

Overall, 29 counties and municipalities in the state saw rising unemployment numbers in May, with 38 improving and two staying flat compared to April figures.

Although the unemployment situation in Archuleta County has steadily improved since January (when the rate was 12.8 percent, the highest unemployment in over 22 years), the five-month average unemployment rate for 2011 is 11.86 percent. If the unemployment rate fails to improve (based on the year’s average), 2011 will be the worst year for unemployment in the county since 1984.

In 2010, the January-through-May average unemployment for Archuleta County was 11.34 percent.

If history is any indication, the unemployment situation should ease during the next five months, primarily due to increased tourism, construction and agricultural activities. Increased tourism should lead to more hiring in the lodging, dining and retail sectors as well as seasonal jobs with recreational areas. Although there is little indication that new construction has taken off in the county, road construction and improvements during the warmer months should lead to more jobs.

With local officials scrambling to grasp at any economic development opportunity, workers in Archuleta County can only hope that those officials snag the brass ring — and make 2011 a better year for employment than the dismal previous year.

jim@pagosasun.com

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