Report shows effect of recession on payrolls in county

Mesa County payrolls took a $200 million hit in 2009 when the bottom dropped out of the Western Slope and national economies, figures from the federal government suggest.

Total compensation in Mesa County dropped from $3.3 billion in 2008 to $3.1 billion in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The 6 percent drop was slightly larger than was seen in Denver, which saw total compensation fall 4.1 percent from $32.9 billion to $31.6 billion, according to the bureau.

Mining and support activities for mining in Mesa County accounted for about half of the drop, which saw total compensation fall from $349 million in 2008 to $249 million in 2009, according to bureau statistics.

Garfield County took a similar hit, as total compensation in mining and related categories fell from $261 million to $165 million over that year.

The collapse in overall compensation stemming from the drop in payroll spending in the extractive industries demonstrates how quickly the effect can spread, said Reeves Brown, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope lobbying and promotional organization.

“This kind of draconian drop grounds a lot of boats that have nothing to do with the oil and gas industry, or think they have nothing to do with the oil and gas industry,” Brown said.

Regionally, Salt Lake City also saw total compensation drop, 1.6 percent, but El Paso County in Colorado saw an increase of 1.9 percent, the bureau said.

In the Rocky Mountain region, compensation declined in 32 of 45 metropolitan counties and in 90 of 171 nonmetropolitan counties. The region includes Colorado, Idaho, the western part of Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

In terms of average compensation, Mesa County’s $48,417 ranked 17th among Colorado counties, nearly $10,000 a year below the state average of $58,700.

Average compensation in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties was on the high side of the state, at $54,106 and $62,148, respectively. Garfield County’s average compensation was ninth in the state, and Rio Blanco County ranked sixth.

In addition to mining and related industries, compensation in Mesa County for 2009 included $260 million from retail businesses, $181 million from hospitals, $25 million from rail transportation, $6.7 million from air transportation, $18.3 million from farming, and $599 million from government and government enterprises, according to the bureau.


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