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Mesa County jobless rate holds steady

The Mesa County unemployment rate remains little changed with a seasonal slowdown offsetting gains in some industry sectors.

“We’re just kind of going into a lull,” said Suzie Miller, an employment specialist with the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

According to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), the unadjusted unemployment rate held steady at 9.1 percent in October after the September jobless rate was revised upward a tenth of a percent. At this time last year, the rate stood at 8.7 percent.

For October 2010, Mesa County payrolls were estimated at 70,831, down 882 from September. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work fell 46 to 7,104.

Miller said labor activity in Mesa County increased in October with 206 new job orders posted at the center, up from 192 in September. Those are among the highest numbers in 18 months.

As of press deadline on Nov. 23, only 126 new job orders had been posted at the center during November.

“Everything is kind of slowing down a bit,” Miller said, which is typical when cooler weather begins to affect construction and other industries in which employees work outdoors. That lull usually continues until late February or March, she added.

At the same time, though, there are more encouraging signs of job growth in a number of industry sectors, Miller said. A total of 25 job orders have been posted at the center for positions in the energy sector, the highest level in 18 months. Another 18 job orders have been posted for the transportation sector.

Hiring for the holiday season, mostly in the retail sector, has been steady this year compared to last year, Miller added.

Unemployment rates fell or held steady in neighboring Western Colorado counties in October, slipping a tenth to 8.3 percent in Delta County and falling two-tenths to 8.3 percent in Garfield County and 9.6 percent in Montrose County. The jobless rate held steady at 5.4 percent in Rio Blanco County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted  unemployment rate climbed two-tenths to 8.4 percent in October. At this time last year, the rate stood at 7.5 percent.

“Despite mixed results in the employment numbers, there are encouraging signs of improvement, including recent increases in online job postings,” said Donald Mares, executive director of the CDLE.

The unadjusted unemployment rate rose in 38 of 64 Colorado counties, fell in 14 counties and remained unchanged in 12 counties.

According to the latest results of a monthly survey of Colorado businesses, nonfarm payrolls rose 7,100 in October to more than 2.2 million with gains in five of 11 major industry sectors.

Employment in education and health services increased by an estimated 5,000 net jobs, while construction payrolls rose 1,800 and government added 1,700 positions. The mining and logging sector, which includes the energy industry, added 1,600 jobs.

Employment declined a net 1,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector, followed by losses of 800 jobs in financial activities, 700 jobs each in trade, transportation and utilities and manufacturing and 200 jobs in professional and business services.

Over the past year, nonfarm payrolls in Colorado have declined 12,600, or six-tenths of a percent.

Four industry sectors have reported employment gains over the past year, led by education and health services with a net 8,200 new jobs. Gains also were reported in mining and logging, up 1,800; and professional and business services, up 700.

The construction sector lost an estimated 9,200 net jobs over the past year in Colorado. Losses also were reported in the information sector, down 3,400; leisure and hospitality, down 2,900; financial activities, down 2,800 ; trade, transportation and utilities, down 2,500; manufacturing down 1,700; and government, down 1,100.

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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