by William T. Beverly, Ph.D.
HUERFANO- Huerfano’s unemployment rate for July 2011 comes in at 11.1%. That betters the June 2011 figure of 11.5% and gains more than a point over last year’s July 2010 figure of 12.2%, but Huerfano continues to lag behind both Colorado and the U.S.
On a national scale, unemployment is being discussed as part of a domino effect. Just last week, the Associated Press wrote about stocks retreating “in the face of gloom.” The “gloom” was a bitter mixture of a rise in jobless claims (unemployment), a jump in consumer prices (inflation), a slide in home sales (of previously occupied homes), and a weakening of our manufacturing sector because of a lack of consumer spending. Apparently joblessness and reduced consumer spending are tied to rises in consumer prices, real estate losses, and losses in the stock market.
In other words, when the business and manufacturiung sector cut their labor costs through downsizing or layoffs in order to save on payroll costs, many of them also eventually lose out as stock prices fall. When stock prices fall, they take with them the value of everyone’s 401-K’s, savings accounts, investment accounts and other retirement vehicles. The question is which falls first: employment, consumer buying power, homeownership or investment and retirement nest eggs?
So how does this relate to Huerfanos? Looking at the attached graph, one will see that over the past 9 months, Huerfano’s employment rate is consistently higher than that of Colorado and of the nation. If there is a relation between unemployment, pricing, and losses in real estate and the stock market and Huerfano is worse in terms of unemployment, then perhaps Huerfano is also worse in terms of consumer prices, real estate, and the stock market.
How can we fix this? Well, this is just mere speculation, but something tells me that fixing this for Huerfanos is going to require that Huerfano employers – particularly the largest ones – develop policies and practices leading them to hire and retain the most highly qualified local talent. Locally-based employees are more familiar with the people and the environment in which they serve. They can be more accountable to the people they serve. Then more Huerfanos will have jobs, local prices should fall a little, more homes will be occupied with paying residents, and all of our retirement plans will remain intact.
By the way: If Huerfano County or Walsenburg were to pass legislation requiring that local residents holding the proper qualifications be considered above all other applicants when hiring at schools, health care facilities, and other government-related agencies, it would not be the first to do so.