Mesa County jobless rate holds steady

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Celina Kirnberger

The monthly unemployment rate held steady in Mesa County in July with slight increases in both payrolls and the number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for.

As more jobs are filled and a tight labor market eases, the jobless rate should trend downward, said Celina Kirnberger, employment services supervisor at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate stood at 3.7 percent in July, according to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. July matched June after the rate for that month was revised upward a tenth of a point. At this time last year, the jobless rate was higher at 6 percent.

Between June and July 2022, Mesa County payrolls increased  295 to 75,469. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work edged up 29 to 2,892. The labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, increased 324 to 78,361.The gain broke a string of declines for three straight months.

Over the past year, payrolls increased 3,271 — or 4.5 percent. The ranks of the unemployed decreased 1,694. The labor force grew 1,577.

Labor demand as measured by the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center has declined. 

For July, 851 job orders were posted. That’s down from 1,032 for the same month last year. For the first seven months of 2022, 5,819 orders were posted. That’s down from 6,599 for the same period in 2021.

Kirnberger said the latest numbers constitute a good thing in they indicate more employers are filling positions. “It’s still tight. But we are seeing it ease up a little bit.”

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2022, Kirnberger said she expects the unemployment rate to trend downward.

Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates held steady in July in three neighboring Western Colorado counties at 2.8 percent in Garfield County, 3.1 percent in Montrose County and 3.9 percent in Rio Blanco County. The jobless rate slipped a tenth of a point to 3.4 percent in Delta County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged down a tenth of a point to 3.3 percent. That’s the lowest level since the rate stood at 2.8 percent in February 2020, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 2,200 between June and July with gains in government employment accounting for 2,000 of those jobs.

Over the past 27 months, nonfarm payrolls increased 417,800, more than offsetting the 374,500 jobs lost in March and April 2020 because of the pandemic and related restrictions.

Over the past year, payrolls increased 100,300 with the biggest gains in the leisure and hospitality; professional and business services; and trade, transportation and utilities sectors. No industry sectors have lost jobs since July 2021.

Over the past year, the average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls shortened nine-tenths of an hour to 33 hours. Average hourly earnings increased $2.23 to $34.60.