Let’s shake our local pessimism

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Across the page from this editorial, you’ll see the results of our weekly online readers poll. We thought it would be appropriate to ask, as the unofficial summer season comes to its end with the Labor Day weekend, how people view the health of the local economy.

More than 300 readers responded, a larger sampling than in many Business Journal polls. But their answers did not paint a happy picture. The results held steady for the entire seven-day answer period as the total responses grew, adding to their credibility. Each is followed by the description that appeared in the actual poll:

Excellent, 5 percent. “We always will need more manufacturing jobs, but we’re on a steady upswing.”

Good, 10 percent. “But it’s hard to be too excited when so many people are out of work or are underemployed.”

Shaky, 30 percent. “More military cuts for the next fiscal year could hurt us more than anyone expects.”

Disappointing, 55 percent. “Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins are clearly doing much better than Colorado Springs. It’s time to wake up to that news.”

We’ve had quite a few polls with predictable responses, while some have produced surprises. This one arguably tops that list.

No matter how you look at those unbiased numbers, they’re encouraging.

Our expectation was that the “shaky” option would prevail easily. As much as this area depends on the military, and as many high-paying defense contractors as are located here, we know the Business Journal’s readers have a firm grasp on the effects and implications of continued sequestration. If that had been the answer from 60 percent of our respondents, we would not have been shocked.

Instead, what we have is 55 percent leaning clearly negative, only 15 percent positive. But at the same time, we see economic data suggesting the audience might be too pessimistic.

We like to follow reports compiled monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the Colorado Springs statistical area, our number of people employed was 290,741 in May, with a June number of 290,180. Just a year ago, those numbers were 284,480 in May and 283,145 in June.

The total employment pool has been growing slowly, but on the unemployment side, the local total went from 28,203 in May 2012 to 24,860 in May 2013.

No matter how you look at those unbiased numbers, they’re encouraging. They suggest, by one nationally credible measure, that we actually have surpassed Mayor Steve Bach’s goal of 6,000 more people employed from summer 2012 to 2013.

When you look closer (www.bls.gov/eag/eag.co_coloradosprings_msa.htm), you can see about an 8 percent increase from 12 months ago in tourism-related jobs, 6 percent in construction and a 1 percent increase in total non-farm jobs, actually good considering the cuts in civilian jobs at military installations.

In case you wondered, the statewide percentages compared to a year ago aren’t strikingly different. The categories of “financial activities” and “manufacturing” are flat for all of Colorado, slightly down here.

But the trend has been upward. Yes, the larger cities to our north are doing better, but that relates directly to our military-dominated economy.

From this view, it’s OK to feel good about what’s happening here. We don’t have to look at our glass as half empty. In fact, it’s more than 90 percent full.

One Response to Let’s shake our local pessimism

  1. There is a subtle difference in ‘pessimism’ and ‘realism’ and having a somewhat ‘pessimistically-realistic’ view of the future of the region may serve as a better movitator to encourage change in policy than just getting white-knuckled hovering under a Mary Poppins umbrella.

    The good job numbers for the state did not mention that they do not apply to El Paso county which is the only metro area that has not yet recaptured jobs lost in the 2007 recession.

    The good and optimistic news is that it appears a new generation of ‘fiscally realistic’ thinkers are coming out of the closet with the realization past fiscal policy has crippled the region – and local attitudes have left this a region major firms are not interested in – thus, no new job creation. Jobs are not theoretical – they are revenue! Maybe we need to ditch the umbrellas and grab shovels.

    It will be a long journey back to shore, but at least it appears the iceberg has been spotted if we don’t trip over the umbrellafolk on the way to the bridge to change course. The need to develop long range strategic ‘regional’ planning is coming into focus. Once this council and board of commissioners have passed out of office – change can be implemented.

    Rick Wehner
    September 3, 2013 at 10:50 am