Routt County attracts 25-44 age group, while those over 65 leave
A State Demography Office economist showed statistics at the Routt County Economic Summit on Friday, May 12, that continue to show the county largely attracts people in the 25-44 age range, many of whom need housing, but loses many senior residents age 65 and older.
Overall, the information presented by state economist Greg Totten illustrated to the many employers in the audience that hiring in Routt County will continue to be a challenge in the future, especially due to pressures from shortages in attainable housing and older workers leaving the area.
“We are really good at attracting people in their late-20s, and Routt County even more so, but the out migration shows Routt County residents age 20 to 24 moving to college elsewhere,” Totten said. “Routt is different in post-age-50; you see people leaving Routt County while Colorado kind of stabilizes.”
Totten said Routt County leaders need to add economic value to this expensive place to live by developing employees from those who live here already through providing training for students to join the labor force and by adding benefits for existing workers such as powder-day clauses and child care and housing benefits. Local employers need to strive to increase labor participation in the younger and older worker age groups.
“Routt County is good at attracting people ages 25 to 44, and especially 25 to 34, and relatively good at retaining them. This is especially true relative to Summit County, where a lot of people move in during their 20s and out in their 30s,” Totten said. “Older adults typically end up moving out over time. The out migration in older adults is a pattern we typically have in mountain areas.”
In general, the Colorado population gradually is getting older, but Routt County bucks that trend with a younger population in comparison since older adults are dissuaded by harsh winters and less abundant services for senior citizens.
Although tight housing market trends and general perception seemed to indicate more people moved to Routt County during the COVID-19 pandemic, “that general perception is not really showing up in the data,” Totten said. Per the latest U.S. Census estimates, Routt County grew slightly between April 1, 2020, and July 1, 2022, with a total population change of approximately 180 people, he explained.
A key takeaway for statewide trends is the overall population in Colorado is growing at a slower rate with births down and deaths up, in part due to COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic. Migration and mobility are slowing, meaning it is harder for employers to attract and retain the best and brightest workers with a tight and very competitive labor market in the U.S.
The economist said the last two years show a “major slowdown” in the population growth trend in Colorado. Restricted immigration due to borders closing during the pandemic also contributed. The peak period for population growth in Colorado occurred during the 1990s, which included seven different years with more than 100,000 people moving into Colorado.
Population growth in the state is much lower now in part because Colorado is no longer an inexpensive place to live, Totten said. From 2020 to 2022, 28 Colorado counties lost population.
From 2021 to 2022, the U.S. population grew by 0.4% and Colorado grew by 0.5%. However, previously from 2010 to 2020, the population growth rate in Colorado at 14.8% was double the U.S. growth rate of 7.4%, and 95% of that decade of rapid growth was on the Front Range. The last two years, 2020 to 2022, 75% of state population growth was on the Front Range.
The fastest growing county in Colorado is Weld County, so Totten said the running joke is that other county leaders should “make friends with Weld County to recruit workers.” Weld and Adams counties are expected to be the two fastest growing counties in the state through 2050 with projected population increases of 279,000 people (84.3%) and 277,000 (53.2%), respectively.
The economist said 36.2% of workers in Routt County live in Steamboat Springs. Of the county workforce, 47.5% drive less than 10 miles to their jobs.
The top 12 jobs by sector in Routt County in 2021 in descending order were: accommodation and food services (2,430 workers); construction (1,937); retail trade (1,851); real estate (1,642); arts, entertainment and recreation (1,625); local government (1,512); health services (1,401); professional, scientific and technical services (1,369); administrative support and waste management (1,297); other services (1,133); state government (862); agriculture (745); and education (448).
The economist said Routt County’s population, which was 24,820 in 2020, is predicted to increase by 11,500 people, or 46.4%, by 2050. In that same 30-year timeframe, Colorado is predicted to add 1.8 million people, including 1.6 million on the Front Range and 190,000 on the Western Slope.
The greatest areas for decrease in population in Colorado by 2050 include Moffat County at a forecasted loss of about 900 people, or a 6.7% decrease, as well as Rio Grande, Huerfano, Otero, Las Animas and Prowers counties.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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