Mesa County jobless rate retreats

Phil Castle, Business Times

LIndsay Bullock

The unemployment rate retreated in Mesa County in November as more people filled job openings.

The seasonally unadjusted jobless rate fell two-tenths of a point to 3.6 percent, according to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

“It’s a good trend we’re seeing,”  said Lindsay Bullock, director of the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

Businesses have found more effective ways to recruit and retain employees, Bullock said. In addition, more people have returned to the workforce or moved to full-time positions, some of them because of the higher prices brought on by inflation. “It’s kind of a mix of different things.”

The monthly unemployment rate has ranged in Mesa County in 2022 from a high of 4.5 percent in January and February to a low of 3.4 percent in September. At this time last year, the rate stood at 4.1 percent.

Between October and November, Mesa County payrolls increased 305 to 76,199. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work decreased 143 to 2,839. The labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, rose 162 to 79,038.

Over the past year, payrolls increased 1,190 — a gain of nearly 1.6 percent. The ranks of the unemployed decreased 367. The labor force grew 823.

Bullock said the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center continues to decline compared to last year. For November, 622 orders were posted. That’s down from 1,102 orders for the same month in 2021. Through the first 11 months of 2022, 8,756 orders were posted. That’s down from 10,788 for the same span in 2021.

Job orders offer a measure of labor demand, but also decrease when employers fill openings, she said. “For the most part, that’s what it is.”

Bullock said 2022 has been a good year as Mesa County continues to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

The monthly unemployment rate traditionally edges up in December in Mesa County and spikes in January at its highest level of the year. But Bullock said she expects a downward trend in unemployment to continue afterward. “I think we’re gong to continue on this path.”

She said she’s encouraged by ongoing efforts to fill skill gaps between job applicants and job requirements as well as address issues related to affordable housing. “I’m excited to see what 2023 is going to bring.”

Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates edged up in three  neighboring Western Colorado counties between October and November: up a tenth of a point to 3.2 percent in Garfield County and 3.9 percent in Rio Blanco County and two-tenths of a point to 3.8 percent in Delta County. The jobless rate held steady at 3.2 percent in Montrose County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate slipped a tenth of a point to 3.5 percent as nonfarm payrolls increased 4,300.

Over the past year, nonfarm payrolls grew 103,400 with the biggest private sector gains in the professional and business services, educational and health services and leisure and hospitality sectors. Government payrolls increased 12,500.

Over the past 31 months,  Colorado has added 456,800 nonfarm payroll jobs, more than offsetting the 374,500 jobs lost in March and April 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The average workweek for Colorado employees on private, nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged over the past year at 33.2 hours. Average hourly earnings increased $2.81 to $35.88.