There are signs Jefferson County’s economy is recovering from the depths it reached earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, although several indicators suggest the county has a long way to go before …
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There are signs Jefferson County’s economy is recovering from the depths it reached earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, although several indicators suggest the county has a long way to go before being back to where it was before the pandemic began.
On July 28, Mary O’Neil, Jefferson County’s Director of Strategy Planning and Analysis, told the Jeffco commissioners that the county unemployment rate has been trending down from a high of 12.1% in April to 10% in June.
That decrease mirrors trends that are being seen at the state and national level with the national unemployment rate having decreased from 14.7% to 11.1%. The county unemployment rate had hovered between 2% and 3% in the six months prior to April.
“Even though these rates are still fairly high we are seeing a downward trend which is positive,” said O’Neil.
Consumer spending in Jeffco has also made significant gains from where it was in April, O’Neil said, when it dropped nearly 30% from mid-January. Overall, consumer spending for early July was down about 10.6% from where it was in the same period January but has increased 5.4% compared to early June.
“Consumer spending is trending back up but we are seeing some fluctuations as well,” O’Neil said.
Pam Bales, the president and CEO of the West Metro Chamber of Commerce, said that during a recent meeting of municipal chambers of commerce hosted by the West Metro Chamber, businesses are generally feeling better about their prospects than they have in the past few months.
“Everybody feels pretty good about people are coming back out again, businesses are starting to see more people,” Bales said.
Concern remains about recent spikes Jefferson County has seen in its COVID-19 numbers, although case numbers now seem to be declining again after several weeks of increases.
At this point, Bales said the biggest concern for businesses is the possibility that case number increases could lead to the opening of businesses to be rolled back, similar to what happened last month when Gov. Jared Polis announced he was closing all bars for in-person service.
To that end, Bales said the Jeffco chambers continue to try to get the message out to both businesses and the larger community that is important to take steps like maintaining mask wearing compliance and other preventative practices to ensure the economy can stay open.
“Put your whatever aside,” Bales. “Let’s keep our economy open. Even if you don’t like it, if you want to see the economy stay open then wear a mask.”
However, Bales said some industries, particularly restaurants, hotels and event venues had seen business improve somewhat, but continue to struggle.
“A couple of my big members are the Sheraton Denver West and Marriott Denver West,” Bales said. “Those are big venues and they do a lot of stuff in Jeffco and they are just not able to do as much as they need to. They’re doing more, which is good, but it’s tough.”
Despite the lingering challenges, Bales said she remains optimistic about the future and the county’s ability to continue its recovery.
“Jeffco is a very unique county,” she said. “We are one-third Republican, one-third Democrat and one-third independent but I truly believe we want what’s best for our county.”
“We are pretty open,” she added, “and I think we can get more open if we work together.”
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