Mesa County jobless rate retreats

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The monthly unemployment rate in Mesa County has retreated with an increase in payrolls and decrease in the ranks of  those unsuccessfully looking for work. But the overall labor force has declined as well along with a measure of labor demand.

Celina Kirnberger, business services supervisor at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction welcomed the drop in the jobless rate, but remained concerned about the other numbers. “I guess it’s a little bit of mixed feelings, good and bad.”

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in Mesa County dropped six-tenths of a percent to an even 6 percent in July, according to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The jobless rate was slightly lower at 5.7 percent at this time last year.

The July decrease follows a nearly one-point increase in June, a seasonal spike attributed in part to college and high school graduates looking for jobs. If history repeats itself, the monthly jobless rate should decline through the remainder of the year, Kirnberger said. “We’re kind of following the annual trend. We’re not too far out of the box on anything.”

For July, Mesa County payrolls increased 415 to 68,482. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work decreased 456 to 4,353. The overall labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, edged down 41 to 72,835.

Over the past year, payrolls have grown 460, or nearly seven-tenths of a percent. The ranks of the unemployed have grown 232. The labor force has increased 692 — almost 1 percent — but remains well below a peak force of about 84,000 in November 2009.

A measure of labor demand has moderated with a decrease in the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center, Kirnberger said. For July, 512 orders were posted, down 34 from the same month last year. For the first seven months of 2016, 3,082 orders have been posted. That’s down 171 from the same span in 2015.

Meanwhile, initial claims for unemployment insurance have edged down in Mesa County. For July, 262 claims were filed, down two from for the same month last year. For the first seven months of 2016, 1,969 claims were filed. That’s down 59 from the same span in 2016.

Kirnberger said she expects the local labor market to remain unchanged through summer and then seasonal hiring to pick up in fall in preparation for the holidays.

The Mesa County Workforce Center has scheduled a number of events for September to help employers find employees and job hunters to find jobs, she said. Those events include a customer appreciation day on Sept. 16,  a job fair on Sept. 27 and business breakfast on Sept. 28.

Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates also fell in neighboring Western Colorado in July: down seven-tenths of a percent to 3.6 percent in Garfield County and 5.1 percent in Delta County, down nine-tenths of a percent to 4.2 percent in Montrose County and a full point to 5.2 percent in Rio Blanco County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobless rate edged up a tenth of a point to 3.8 percent even though nonfarm payrolls increased an estimated 14,000. The jobless rate and payrolls are based on separate surveys of households and businesses, respectively

According to the results of the household survey, the number of people reporting themselves as employed decreased 8,500 and  the number of people participating in the labor force decreased 4,100.

According to the results of the business survey, private-sector payrolls increased 11,100 and government payrolls rose 2,900. The largest job gains occurred in the construction; financial activities; and trade, transportation and utilities sectors.

Over the past year, the Colorado unemployment rate has held steady even as nonfarm payrolls have increased 74,200. The largest gains have occurred in the construction, leisure and hospitality and education and health services sectors. Employment has declined in mining and logging.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls has shortened two-tenths of an hour to 33.9 hours. Average hourly earnings have declined 13 cents to $26.63.