June joblessness jumps

Suzie Miller
Suzie Miller

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The Mesa County labor market once again hit a seasonal speed bump with a spike in the jobless rate in June.

But with year-over-year decreases in payrolls and overall work force as well as a key measure of  labor demand, the latest statistics raise additional concerns about the market.

“We’re certainly not out of the woods,” said Suzie Miller, business services manager at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

According to estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in Mesa County jumped seven-tenths of a point to 6.6 percent,  the highest level so far this year. Moreover, the jobless rate was lower at 6.4 percent in June 2014.

For June 2015, Mesa County payrolls decreased 869 to 68,332. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work increased 457 to 4,806. The overall labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, slipped 412 to 73,138.

Over the past year, payrolls have shrunk 777 even as the ranks of the unemployed have edged up 88. The overall labor force has dropped 689 and remains well below peak employment of more than 84,000 in November 2009.

Miller said the monthly jobless rate typically spikes in June in Mesa County in part because of an influx of high school and college students looking for summer employment.

At the same time, though, other aspects of the latest job report  raise concerns, Miller said, including the downward trend in payrolls and overall work force. The numbers could reflect slowing activity in energy exploration and development related to lower oil and natural gas prices, she added.

Labor demand as measured by the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center also has declined. A total of 460 job orders were posted at the center during June, down from 631 orders for the same month in 2014. For the first half of 2015, 2,706 job orders were posted. That’s also down from the 3,133 orders posted during the same span last year.

Meanwhile, the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance filed in Mesa County has increased on a year-over-year basis. For June, 231 claims were filed, up from 180 for the same month in 2014. For the first half of 2015, 1,764 claims were filed, up from 1,459 during the same span last year.

Miller said she remains hopeful, nonetheless, of a rebound in the second half of 2015 based on anecdotal reports of increased hiring in the fall and the end of the year.

Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates dropped and climbed in neighboring Western Colorado counties in June. The jobless rate slipped a tenth of a point to 6 percent in Delta County and retreated three-tenths to 4.5 percent in Garfield County. The jobless rate rose three-tenths to 5.8 percent in Montrose County and advanced nine-tenths to 6.2 percent in Rio Blanco County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged up a tenth of a point to 4.4 percent in June. The gain was attributed in part to a larger decrease in total employment than the labor force. At this time last year, the rate stood at 5 percent.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 11,300 between May and June 2015 with the largest private-sector gains in the leisure and hospitality; trade, transportation and utilities; and financial activities sectors. Government payrolls increased 2,500.

Over the past year, nonfarm payrolls grew 65,400 with the biggest gains in the leisure and hospitality, education and health services and construction sectors. Government payrolls increased 7,400.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls has dropped more than an hour over the past year to 34.1 hours. Average hourly earnings have increased 6 cents to $26.45.