Locals bullish on economy | AspenTimes.com

Locals bullish on economy

The economy has apparently bounced back better for residents of the Roaring Fork Valley than those living in the Colorado River Valley, according to a new poll.

More residents living between Aspen and Glenwood Springs reported feeling “positive” about the economy than residents living between Glenwood and Rifle, according to the recent poll conducted for the Roaring Fork Transit Authority.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, 69 percent of the respondents rated the economy today as positive while 30 percent rated it negative, according to the survey by Frederick Polls, which was hired by RFTA to gauge how a sales tax increase proposal would fare at an election this year.

In the Colorado River corridor 62 percent of respondents rated the economy as positive while 38 were negative. That corridor includes residents living in New Castle, Silt, Rifle and unincorporated Garfield County.

Perhaps because they saw more room for improvement, residents of the Colorado River Valley were more optimistic about the future direction of the economy. When asked to rate the health of the economy “over the next couple of years,” 45 percent in the Colorado River Valley said it will be “better” while 10 percent said it will be “worse”; 39 percent said it will be about the same.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, 33 percent said the economy will be better, 11 percent said it will be worse, and 50 percent said it will be about the same, according to the poll.

People who are likely to vote in November 2004 were surveyed. The margin of error is 5.6 percent, according to Frederick Polls.

Residents of New Castle, Silt, Rifle and unincorporated Garfield County were more sour about the economy than their neighbors even though conditions are much better than they were a year ago. The unemployment rate in Garfield County for March was 4.1 percent compared to 5.9 percent in March 2003, according to statistics tracked by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

In Pitkin County, the unemployment rate dropped from 2.8 percent in March last year to 2.2 percent this year.

In addition, the number of jobs available has soared in Garfield County in recent years compared to Pitkin County. In March 1998, there were 21,155 jobs in the Garfield County economy. This spring that had shot up to 25,250, according to the labor department. That’s an increase of 19 percent.

In Pitkin County the number of jobs grew only 2 percent from 10,177 to 10,394 this March.

However it’s sliced, residents were much more bullish about the economy than other people around the country. A May survey by the Gallup organization found that the number of people who rated the economy as “excellent” and “good” was the lowest of the year.

Two percent of respondents in the national poll said the economy was “excellent” while 27 percent rated it “good,” according to Gallup’s Web site. Another 43 percent said the economy was “fair,” and 27 percent said it was “poor.”

Meanwhile, Aspen is heading into the summer coming off its best first quarter ever for retail sales. Sales reached a record $141.8 million in January, February and March. That is 13.5 percent higher than last year.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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