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Brower: Tough to predict future with COVID in our lives

By Patrick Brower
Grand Enterprise Initiative

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

That quote by Yogi Berra could be changed in our current times to read something like: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about COVID.”

And yet, I’m going to step up and make some predictions about our economic future in Grand County that COVID will surely spoil. I have the near past to aid me in my (admitted) guesswork as the state has released recent economic numbers.

Figures from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment show that the Grand County unemployment rate was at 8.6% for the month of July, lower than the rates for Summit County (10.1%) and Eagle County (9.4%), which I suppose we could see as good news. Except for the fact that last year at this time we were at something close to 2%, which is essentially fully employed.

What’s going to happen in the next month and to the end of the year? I predict the unemployment rate will go up in September and October as college students return to school and give up their summer jobs. As well, the off-season will cut into the demand for workers, further cutting into the number of employed for a normal, non-COVID related cut back.

December? I predict it will be almost exactly like July at about a rate of 8.6%. I think our resorts and winter-related businesses will be opening up, but it won’t be “normal.” People will be limited from gathering in groups, travel on airplanes won’t be encouraged and while outdoor activities may be encouraged, the indoor activity associated with it – like eating and drinking in ski area lodges and bars and dining areas – will be curtailed. Not as many workers will be needed, to put it bluntly.

And yet, the growth rate of jobs from month to month, especially since the low, low point of May, will be touted as great news for the economy. Great news only in terms relative to COVID, that is, not in relation to the long term past. In other words, it’s easy to see huge job gains in the last few months after the disastrous low of May, when much of the nation and state were essentially shut down.

Data from the Colorado Secretary of State from the second quarter of this COVID year shows that new and existing business filings have stabilized and in some areas are increasing. New entity filings began increasing in Colorado beginning in mid-May, which I have seen reflected in my dealings with entrepreneurs in Grand County. People are still opening up businesses and planning for new ventures, despite COVID.

I predict that trend will continue based on what I’m seeing from new and existing clients.

Existing entity renewals and entities in good standing remained stable across the state. I also have seen that as the case here in Grand County, although I have seen a few long time businesses decide to close. COVID presented the “opportunity,” if you will. I predict that county businesses that have made it this far should be OK for the coming winter, but it won’t be easy. (But most of the time, it never really is easy.)

I predict, however, that for the unemployed who count on many of the basic service jobs in the county, the coming winter will not be pleasant. That usually large cushion of many jobs always available won’t be large and the practical impact of that will be less work for those at the bottom of the scale.

Construction, home services and government, however, should be relatively stable, I predict.

I severely hope that when it comes to this winter and COVID that I won’t be using another famous Yogi Berra saying: “It feels like déjà vu all over again.”

Here’s to hoping.


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