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Region 9 report reveals slight job growth in Montezuma County

Employment study shows increased service jobs
Liz Bohm and Kim Welty rehearse at the Sunflower Theatre in 2016. The latest data from the Region 9 Economic Development District showed arts and entertainment offered the highest-paying jobs in the county last year.

Data recently released by the Region 9 Economic Development District show a slight increase in the number of jobs in Montezuma County in 2016, especially in the service sector.

Region 9 economic development planner Jill Seyfarth presented the five-county economic district’s updated employment data to the Montezuma Community Economic Development Association on Tuesday, showing that jobs in Montezuma County increased a total of 1 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Most of the growth happened in service jobs like health care, entertainment and private education. The report also showed data on wages in each job sector and long-term trends across the district.

Region 9 updates its employment data once a year with the help of information from the Colorado State Demography Office and the Colorado Labor Market Quarterly Census of Wages and Employment.

The latest report showed that Montezuma County experienced the lowest positive job growth in the district. Jobs in Dolores County decreased 26 percent, but jobs in La Plata and Archuleta counties increased 3 percent. San Juan County showed the highest job growth, at 7 percent. Region 9 as a whole showed a 2 percent job growth last year, which was the same growth rate statewide.

Donna Graves, a research consultant with Region 9, said Montezuma County has lost jobs in many of the same industries that are declining across the state, such as mining, where the county lost 6 percent of jobs in 2016, and other oil- and gas-related positions. But compared with other counties in the region, it has been slow to replace those jobs with new ones.

“Montezuma has been one of the slowest counties in the area to recover from the recession,” she said.

In Montezuma County, 12,456 people were employed in 2016. According to the report, that number has grown 3 percent since the depth of the county’s economic recession in 2012, when only 12,088 people were employed. But the county still has some growing to do before it reaches 12,866 jobs, the number of people employed in 2007 before the economy started to decline. In contrast, Graves said, jobs in La Plata County have grown 9 percent since 2012, and Archuleta County has seen a 17 percent job growth.

According to the report, the fastest-growing job sectors in Montezuma were private education services, which showed a 19 percent growth in 2016, and manufacturing, which grew 7 percent. But Seyfarth said those numbers don’t take into account the destruction of the Western Excelsior plant in Mancos, which employed more than 100 people before it burned down in May.

“Unfortunately, the fire at Western Excelsior in Mancos in 2017 will probably reverse the trend in manufacturing job growth in the near future,” the report said.

The largest percentage of jobs the county lost in 2016 came from management positions. According to the report, the number of people employed as managers of companies and enterprises decreased 18 percent from 2015. Construction jobs also declined by 12 percent, and wholesale trade jobs by 11 percent.

In Montezuma County, the highest-paying jobs in 2016 were in arts and entertainment, where employees earned an average annual wage of $121,212. Seyfarth said that was unusual for Region 9.

“In the other counties in our region, the jobs sector of arts, entertainment and recreation is usually one of the lowest paying sectors,” she said. “But in Montezuma County, it’s one of the highest paying sectors.”

Graves said a high-paying art sector is an “abnormality” in Colorado, and speculated some of Montezuma County’s success in that area might come from recent initiatives like the Mancos Creative District.

The lowest-paying job sector in Montezuma County, according to the report, was accommodation and food, with an average annual wage of $16,172. That sector employs about 9 percent of the county’s workers, while arts and entertainment account for 1 percent. Just as in the previous year, about 23 percent of the county’s jobs in 2016 were in government. More than 39 percent were in the service sector, a 6 percent increase from 2015.

The report acknowledged the percentages in job growth could be “somewhat exaggerated” because many of the counties in Region 9 have such small populations.

The latest employment data is available on the Region 9 website.

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