Economy

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construction, North Fork Valley
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

A few years ago, a grassroots program started in Portland to encourage people to adopt solar power. That idea spread across the county and inspired similar initiatives like one in a rural community in western Colorado. 

A crew of six is working to install mounts for solar panels on a residential rooftop in Delta County. 

This home sits atop a mesa that overlooks the North Fork Valley. And, it’s the first to get a sun-powered system through a local pro-solar campaign.  

As President Obama promised, a new rule would make 5 million more Americans eligible for overtime pay.

Many workers say it's a welcome change. But businesses say employees could see negative, unintended consequences.

Barrett Zenger has managed a music store in Corpus Christi, Texas, for the past seven years, where he oversees two dozen employees, stocks inventory and fills in for sales clerks who call in sick.

There's a serious problem in the American economy: Big corporations are doing well, but real household income for average Americans has been falling over the past decade — down 9 percent, according to census data.

"That's not good for America," says Harvard economist Michael Porter. "That's not good for America's standard of living. That's not good for our ultimate vitality as a nation."

going out of business sign, economy
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

A bipartisan bill introduced in the state legislature this week looks to give struggling Colorado communities a jump-start. 

Senate Bill 282 would create ‘tax-friendly zones’ in up to 30 highly distressed counties across the state. 

"We are talking about areas that have the highest unemployment and lowest wages," said bill sponsor House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, D-Denver. 

solar panel, solar workers, Solar Energy International
Solar Energy International

The latest Colorado jobs report shows some communities across the state still struggle with high unemployment. 

State economists say for the past four months, Colorado’s unemployment rate has stayed at 4.2 percent. That figure is still below the national unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.

Alexandra Hall is chief economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. 

"The labor force in Colorado is continuing to grow and the number of people employed are continuing to grow," Hall says.  

As they prepare to write the annual budget, there's mixed news for Colorado lawmakers. The latest revenue forecast shows the economy will remain strong, but there is a lot of uncertainty going forward, especially when it comes to low oil prices and how it ripples through the state's economy.

"On net low oil prices are good for the national economy, but for areas where you have energy production, energy production states, on net it has been negative in the past," said nonpartisan Chief Legislative Economist Natalie Mullis. "Colorado is a third tier energy producing state and it does have a dampening effect on our economy."

Economy, North Fork Valley
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

A bill to find ways to boost economic development in highly distressed regions of Colorado has cleared the state House. 

The bipartisan measure calls for the creation of a working group that identifies areas in Colorado that are struggling. 

The group would make recommendations to the legislature on how to improve the economies of these distressed regions. 

Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver is one of the bill’s sponsors.  

Economists usually worry about a "wage-price spiral" taking hold. That's when workers are earning more, but losing buying power as prices rise.

For now, at least, something very rare is happening: Paychecks and prices are heading in opposite directions.

"You have a schism that's helpful to consumers," IHS economist Doug Handler said about the recent decline in prices and rise in wages.

Since World War II, inequality in the U.S. has gone through two, dramatically different phases.

In the first phase, known as the great compression, inequality fell. Incomes rose for people in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution, as the postwar boom led to high demand for workers with low and moderate skills.

*We used data from the Census Bureau, which has two catch-all categories: "managers not elsewhere classified" and "salespersons not elsewhere classified." Because those categories are broad and vague to the point of meaninglessness, we excluded them from our map.

What's with all the truck drivers? Truck drivers dominate the map for a few reasons.

  • Driving a truck has been immune to two of the biggest trends affecting U.S. jobs: globalization and automation. A worker in China can't drive a truck in Ohio, and machines can't drive cars (yet).
downtown Paonia, Grand Ave Paonia
Laura Palmisano

A bill that aimed to help rural Colorado communities during times of economic crisis was killed in committee this week.  

The bill was sponsored by freshman Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, who represents seven counties including Delta, Hinsdale and Gunnison.   

Donovan says the bill would’ve allowed the state to react quickly with financial assistance when there’s an economic emergency in a community like a plant shutdown or industry-wide layoffs. 

downtown Paonia, Grand Ave Paonia
Laura Palmisano

A Colorado Senate bill introduced last week aims to help rural communities during times of economic crisis. 

SB15-036 seeks to give emergency assistance grants to rural communities during times of economic hardship. The bill is sponsored by freshman Senator Kerry Donovan who represents state Senate District 5. The district covers seven counties on the Western Slope including Delta, Hinsdale and Gunnison. 

Unemployment, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining & Safety

On Friday the state released its employment outlook for November.

Colorado's unemployment rate continues to drop. In October it was 4.3 percent and has moved down to 4.1 percent. The last time it was this low was in January of 2008. 

KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Joe Winter, a senior economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, about the report and what the economy might look like in 2015. 

Flickr user agrilifetoday

There's more of a reason to hire someone if your business is in Montrose County.

Economy, North Fork Valley
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Business and community leaders in Delta County’s North Fork Valley say Paonia, Crawford, and Hotchkiss need an economic boost. They recently held a forum on the North Fork Valley’s economy and what can be done to improve it.

About 100 people attended the forum in Paonia last week.

They came to hear different perspectives on the local economy, what’s working and what’s not, and how to make things better.

Hive Paonia
Laura Palmisano

About 100 people attended a forum on the North Fork Valley's economy and what can be done to improve it. 

Thirteen people ranging from the president of a coal mine to the head of the Paonia Chamber of Commerce spoke at the forum held at the Hive Paonia. 

"We have our farms," says Alexis Halbert, president of the chamber. "We have our hunting resources. We have are restaurants, wineries, [and] people who are creating things out of the natural assets of the valley."

Job growth has been strong and steady over the past year. Wages, not so much: Average pay for U.S. workers barely kept up with inflation. But there was a fair bit of variation across different sectors. Here's a look. (In the graph, the size of the circle indicates the total number of jobs in each sector.)

construction
flickr.com/kylemay

Colorado's economy is doing better.

Numbers released Monday show the state's unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in July. The last time it was this low was Oct. 2008. 

The national unemployment rate for June was 6.2 percent. 

In Colorado nonfarm payroll jobs increased 5,500. Private sector jobs increased 6,000 while government jobs decreased 500. The state has had 33 consecutive months of payroll job gains.

The U.S. unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since September 2008. 

Colorado’s economy and job growth are already shaping up to play a central role in the November gubernatorial race. Both candidates are using their own figures to assess how the state is faring as it recovers from the recession.

Pam Morris via Flickr creative commons

Coal miners and their families filled the gym at the Paonia branch of the Delta Montrose Technical College on Saturday. Many of them were among the 300 people laid off by Oxbow’s Elk Creek Mine in Somerset last month. They were there to hear state Senator Gail Schwartz and others talk about how the state could help them deal with the job losses. Some ideas included rural economic development grants and financial aid for miners to go back to school. But many people left the meeting feeling just as lost as before. 

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More Layoffs As Coal Mine All But Shuttered

Dec 3, 2013
Elise Thatcher/Aspen Public Radio

More coal miners in the North Fork Valley are being laid off. Oxbow Mining company, owned by billionaire Bill Koch, laid off more than a hundred more employees on Monday at its Elk Creek mine.

Headlines

  • Shell Oil Announces Plans to Close R&D Project in Rio Blanco County
  • Aspen Collects Nearly $45,000 in Fees from Plastic Bag Ban
  • Report - Glenwood Springs Brought in over $95 Million from Tourism Last Year
  • Unemployment Rate in Mesa County Drops to 7.9%
  • Hickenlooper Says Many Roads Reopened after Floods
  • Senior Meals Program in Delta County Drops to a 3-Day-Per-Week Schedule
  • Carbondale Approves All Forms of Retail Marijuana Businesses

Headlines:

  • Gov Signs Gun Bills, Opponents Vow Political Revenge
  • Doctors Refuse Fracking Fluid Confidentiality
  • Child Poverty in Colorado Growing
  • Residents Return Home After Grand Junction Gas Explosion
  • KVNF Sports Report with Tamie Meck

Flanked by Democratic leaders at the statehouse – Governor John Hickenlooper outlined his top job creation priorities for the upcoming legislation session and previewed the first house bill that will be introduced on Wednesday. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Headlines:

  • Next Speaker of the House Previews State Legislative Session
  • State Distilleries Exploding In Number
  • Arkansas River Water Users Holding Their Breath

State economists were in an optimistic mood yesterday, saying Colorado’s economy is performing better than the rest of the nation. As a result, lawmakers will also have more money to spend in next year’s budget than originally anticipated. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.


Headlines:

  • State Economy Better Than Expected
  • State Biologists Work To Restore Blue Mesa Salmon
  • KVNF Sports Report
  • Western Slope Skies - Solstice Edition
  • Good Solstice Wishes

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