Despite payroll revisions, Mesa County labor outlook unchanged

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

While estimates for the number of people working in Mesa County could be revised downward, the change likely will be small. Moreover, officials say the overall outlook for the local labor market hasn’t changed much.

“I feel like things are fairly stable. And if anything, we might see things improve a little bit,” said Celina Kirnberger, business services supervisor at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released an analysis of expected revisions to monthly nonfarm payroll jobs estimates based on a fourth quarter census of employment and wages. The analysis is based on the results of employer reports filed with the department that include a count of workers.

Estimates for Mesa County could be revised downward, although not substantially — two-tenths of a percent for November and a tenth of a percent for December.

Applying the analysis to the first four months of 2016, payrolls could be revised downward a tenth of a percent each month.

Kirnberger said the expected revisions are neither surprising nor especially worrisome.

Kirnberger said she monitors quarterly revisions along with monthly labor estimates. But she also said that so many factors affect the market it’s difficult to draw conclusions.

Besides, she said, operations at the Workfoce Center to help businesses recruit employees and people to find jobs remain the same regardless of good or bad labor market conditions. “We’re just here to offer services.”

For April, the latest month for which estimates are available, Mesa County payrolls edged up 152 to 68,448 as the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate held steady at 5.9 percent, the highest level of the year.

Over the past year, payrolls have grown 736, or about 1 percent. The overall labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, increased 931, but at 72,716 remains well below peak employment of 84,000 in November 2009.

Monthly unemployment rates typically trend downward in Mesa County in the summer and fall, and Kirnberger said she’s hopeful that will hold true in coming months. While a slowdown in the energy sector related to low prices continues to affect the labor market, health care employment has increased, she said.

Kirnberger said she’s more optimistic small improvements will occur than pessimistic conditions will worsen. But she said doesn’t foresee big changes either way. “I don’t expect the outlook to look different. That’s the feeling.”

Statewide, the Colorado Department of Labor announced it expects to revise payroll estimates down four-tenths of a percent for December for a total of 10,700 jobs. Estimates also are likely to be revised downward a tenth of a point for November and two-tenths of a point for October.

Fourth quarter stimates are expected to be revised downward 1,700 for Greeley and 1,100 for Colorado Springs. Estimates also could be revised downward for Fort Collins and Pueblo. Meanwhile, nonfarm payrolll employment in the Denver area is expected to be revised upward 3,000. The numbers also could be revised upward for Boulder.

Statewide, downward payroll revisions are expected for the fourth quarter for a number of industry sectors: down 7,300 in leisure and hospitality, 5,000 in construction, 2,400 in manufacturing, 2,200 in financial activities and 1,900 in mining and logging.

At the same time, though, upward payroll revisions are expected for the other sectors with an expected increase of 4,400 jobs in professional and business services; 2,600 jobs in trade, transportation and utilities; and 1,600 jobs in government Estimates for other services also could be revised upward.