GJ economy lagging, but moving, report says

The Grand Junction economy was one of the worst performing in the Intermountain West over the last year, according to Brookings Mountain West, a partnership of the Brookings Institution and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

More recent figures, however, suggest a slight rebound, Jonathan Rothwell, senior research analyst at the Brookings Institution, said Tuesday.

The gross metropolitan product for the Grand Junction metropolitan area shrank by 1.8 percent from the second to the third quarter of 2009, but grew by 0.3 percent through the fourth quarter of the year, Rothwell said.

The growth is “far from robust,” Rothwell said, but “at least it is moving in the right direction.”

In small metro areas such as Grand Junction, high housing prices before 2008 strongly predicted the crash, according to the report, the Mountain Monitor.

“The worst-performing small metros — Grand Junction,  Flagstaff, Prescott, Lake Havasu City-Kingman and Reno — registered housing-price inflation figures ranging from 40 percent in Grand Junction to over 70 percent in Lake Havasu from 2000 to 2007,” the report said, citing small metros in Arizona and Nevada.

A well-educated population also tended to be somewhat more resilient than metro areas with lesser educational attainment, the report said, citing Las Cruces, N.M., with New Mexico State University and a large health care workforce. In Colorado, Greeley “benefited from rich endowments in natural resources and increasing commodities demand,” the study said.

Pueblo also benefited from its highly specialized health care industry, the report said.

Grand Junction bachelor-degree-attainment rate of 25.4 percent “is not too bad” for smaller metro areas, but it’s below the average 28.8 percent for large metro areas as measured in 2007, Rothwell said.

Education levels remain a strong predictor of resilience to economic strains both in the Intermountain West and nation, Rothwell said.

Overall in the Intermountain West, the economy “tracks with the national story of a modest, tentative, variegated and jobless recovery,” the Mountain Monitor said.  “Growth is back, but not job growth, and so the winter of 2009-10 is a time of anxiety both nationally and in the West.”


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