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Mesa County labor forecast: no change

David Porfirio

David Porfirio compares the labor market in Mesa County to the typical weather forecast for Southern California: no change.

While there are some variations among industry sectors, there’s been little difference in the overall market in terms of demand or the number of people looking for jobs. And Porfirio doesn’t expect conditions to substantially improve until confidence strengthens, revenues rise and hiring increases.

“It’s just unchanged,” said Porfirio, manager of business services at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.
The monthly unemployment rate in Mesa County held steady in July with only slight changes in the overall work force and the number of those counted as unsuccessfully looking for jobs.

According to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), the unadjusted jobless rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent. That matches the rate for June after an initial estimate of 9.7 percent was revised downward two-tenths. At this time last year, the jobless rate stood at 10 percent.

For July 2010, the overall work force in Mesa County was estimated at 78,111, with 7,388 counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work.

Over the past month, the overall work force fell 173, while the number of unemployed slipped 64. The differences are larger over the past year, however: The overall work force has declined 3,737, while the number of unemployed has dropped 786.

Porfirio said about 9,200 job applicants are registered at the Mesa County Workforce Center while roughly 160 job orders are posted there. The ratio of job applicants to job orders has remained around 60-to-1 for about four months, he said.

Labor demand as measured by the most job orders remains strongest for office and administrative positions. But the competition for openings remains fierce with around 1,600 applicants.

There also are openings for building maintenance and installation jobs, while demand has increased substantially for truck drivers, Porfirio said. Health care workers remain in demand as well, although there’s more competition for those jobs.

In contrast, the construction sector continues to struggle with more than 1,700 applicants chasing 16 job openings.

Porfirio said many businesses remain in what he calls a “survival mode” in cutting costs and holding back on new hiring. That situation is likely to persist until employers become more confident about economic conditions and revenues increase.

For July, unemployment rates were mixed in three neighboring Western Colorado counties: falling four-tenths to 8.3 percent in Garfield County, slipping a tenth to 9.9 percent in Montrose County and edging up a tenth to 6 percent in Rio Blanco County. The jobless rate held steady in Delta County at 8.6 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Colorado remained unchanged for a fourth straight month at 8 percent. At this time last year, the rate stood at 8.1 percent.

“Four months of stability in the unemployment rate combined with two months of notable private-sector job growth is encouraging news,” said Donald Mares, executive director of the CDLE. “Our challenge is to sustain this growth over the second half of the year.”

According to the latest results of a monthly survey of businesses, nonfarm payrolls in Colorado rose 1,900 in July as employment increased in five of 11 major industry sectors.

The leisure and hospitality sector added a net 3,100 jobs, while education and health services added 1,800 positions and the trade, transportation and utility sector added 1,300 more.

Meanwhile, though, construction employment declined 1,800, while the government and professional and business service sectors each declined 800.

Over the past year, nonfarm payrolls have decreased 25,200, or 1.1 percent, in Colorado.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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