Phil Castle, The Business Times:
The monthly unemployment rate in Mesa County has seesawed back down as a drop in the number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for jobs exceeded a smaller decline in payrolls.
Meanwhile, labor demand as tracked by a separate measure persists at its highest level in four years, a reflection of slowly improving conditions.
The situation constitutes something of a mixed bag, said Suzie Miller, business services manager at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction. “I have a little bit of mixed feelings about it.”
According to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in Mesa County dropped four-tenths of a point in April to 9.1 percent. The drop extends a string of alternating increases and decreases in the monthly jobless rate that goes back to January.
For April, the number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work fell 355 to 7,174. Miller said part of that decline could be attributed to people who’ve exhausted their unemployment benefits and are no longer counted among the unemployed. Mesa County payrolls fell 120 to 71,333. The overall work force, which includes the unemployed and employed, fell 475 to 78,507.
Compared to April 2011, the unemployment rate has dropped a half point even as the number of unemployed has declined 362 and payrolls have grown 123. The overall labor force has shrunk 239.
Labor demand as measured by the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center remains at its highest level since 2008, Miller said.
Through May 17, 1,137 job orders had been posted at the center since the beginning of the year. That number is slightly higher than 2011 and nearly double the number posted for the same span in 2009. Each order usually involves two or three job openings, sometimes more.
While the monthly unemployment rate bobs up and down, Miller said she’s encouraged by the year-over-year decline in the jobless rate and long-term trend in job orders. Those changes reflect improving conditions, albeit at a slow pace, Miller expects to continue. “I hope we continue to stay on the current path with lower unemployment rates and more jobs coming in.”
Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates also retreated in neighboring Western Colorado counties in April — a tenth of a point in Delta County to 8.5 percent and four-tenths of a point in Garfield and Montrose counties to 8.3 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. The jobless rate held steady at 6 percent in Rio Blanco County.
The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged up a tenth of a point to 7.9 percent with an increase in the number of people counted among the unemployed and a decrease in the number of people in the labor force.
Nonfarm payrolls increased an estimated 1,200 in Colorado in April with gains in the construction; education and health services; and trade, transportation and utilities sectors.
Over the past year, the statewide jobless rate has dropped a half point while nonfarm payrolls have grown 39,800. The largest private-sector gains have occurred in the business and professional services; education and health services; and trade, transportation and utilities sectors.
The average workweek for employees on private nonfarm payrolls in Colorado has increased nearly an hour over the past year to 35.1 hours.
Average hourly earnings have increased 87 cents to $24.89.