Grand among Colorado rural counties taking a beating in economy |

Grand among Colorado rural counties taking a beating in economy

Aldo Svaldi
The Denver Post

GRANBY – A deep economic chill has gripped Grand County, known for some of the country’s lowest winter temperatures.

The county’s unemployment rate jumped 187 percent from July 2007 to July 2009, and June retail sales fell nearly a quarter from June 2008.

“What killed us was construction. A lot of people were doing construction work,” said Lisa Pederson, an employment specialist at the Colorado Workforce Center in Granby.

While Grand County’s jump in unemployment is the state’s largest over the past two years, the county is just one among several rural counties that have taken a beating in this recession, a Denver Post analysis shows.

A dozen western Colorado counties have seen their unemployment rates increase 120 percent or more the past two years – with the region’s average increase at 105.3 percent.

Along the more heavily populated Front Range counties from Larimer in the north to Pueblo in the south, the average two-year increase in the unemployment rate was 94.1 percent.

Adams and Douglas counties had the biggest increases, at 109 percent each.

In the eastern third of the state, unemployment rates have risen a smaller 66 percent on average. The preponderance of self-employed farmers and transient laborers keeps a lid on unemployment in those areas.

The hurt inflicted on rural areas this downturn is a big change from the 2001 recession, when Front Range counties bled high-paying jobs in technology and telecom and less-populated areas were largely spared, said Richard Wobbekind, director of the business research division at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business.

“There has been a huge drop-off in energy and a big drop-off in tourism,” Wobbekind said.

Falling commodity prices, especially for natural gas, and the disappearance of vacation-home construction are inflicting major economic pain, especially west of the Continental Divide.

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