Economic lining less dark with dropping jobless rates

The dark lining of the silver cloud of economic recovery in Mesa County has long been labor conditions. The frequent lament was Mesa County lagged behind other areas of  Colorado with higher unemployment rates and slower job growth.

Not anymore.

According to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in Mesa County dropped seven-tenths of a point in September to just 2.5 percent. For those keeping score, that’s the lowest level in Mesa County for county level statistics in Colorado going back to 1990. Moreover, the Mesa County jobless rate is now below the statewide seasonally adjusted rate of 2.7 percent.

Since the unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent in Mesa County in January, the rate decreased in seven out the eight subsequent months. Over the past year, Mesa County payrolls have increased 1,943 with job growth coming in at 2.6 percent. The overall labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, has topped the 78,000 milestone twice so far in 2019, although it remains below the peak labor force of 84,000 in 2009. A lower unemployment rate combined with a growing labor force constitutes an enviable combination as well as an indication of improving labor and business conditions.

As with most things economic, though, there’s some bad news to go along with the good. In this case, it’s the tightening labor market that makes it more difficult for businesses to maintain staffing.

The situation makes it all the more important for businesses to devote more attention to the ways in which they recruit and retain employees — not only the wages and benefits they offer, but also the workplace cultures they foster. Businesses can take advantage of resources that offer help, including a range of free services available from the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

There could be some relief in the growing attraction of the Grand Valley to people looking to escape the traffic congestion and higher cost of living along the Front Range of Colorado. Add increased labor demand to a list of attributes that includes a lower cost of living and higher quality of life.

The Mesa County Workforce Center and Colorado Mesa University also have joined in efforts to make CMU students aware of the career opportunities available to them right here in the Grand Valley.

It’s all enough to make the whole cloud looks more … silver.