Mesa County jobless rate slips

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Celina Kirnberger

The monthly unemployment rate has edged down in Mesa County after a seasonal increase that reflects in part an influx of high school and college graduates joining the work force.

According to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate slipped a tenth of a point to 3.5 percent in July.

That decrease follows a seven-tenths of a point increase in June and what’s typically a spike in the jobless rate in Mesa County as high school and college graduates start hunting for jobs. The jobless rate was higher at 4.2 percent in July 2018.

Celina Kirnberger, business services supervisor at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction, said in an email she expects the unemployment rate to hold steady in August based on prior years.

For July 2019, Mesa County payrolls shrank 337 to 74,968. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work fell 97 to 2,745. The labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, decreased 434 to 77,713.

Over the past year, payrolls have increased 2,263 even as the ranks of the unemployed have decreased 451. The labor force has grown 1,812 or almost 2.4 percent.

One measure of labor demand reflects mixed results, and that’s the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center.

Kirnberger said 762 orders were posted at the center during July, down nearly 1.6 percent from the same month last year. However, the total number of job openings were up almost 5.7 percent to 1,079.

Through the first seven months of 2019, 4,572 job orders were posted at the center. That’s a 10.7 percent decrease compared to the same span in 2018, Kirnberger said.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits increased from June to July, but decreased from a year ago, she said.

For July 2019, 151 claims were filed in Mesa County, up from 128 in June. For July 2018, 168 claims were filed.

Through the first seven months of 2019, 1,092 claims were filed. That’s down 6.7 percent compared to the same span in 2018.

Seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates also decreased in neighboring Western Colorado counties in July: four-tenths of a point to 2.3 percent in Garfield County and 2.9 percent in Delta County and three-tenths of a point to 2.7 percent in Montrose County and 3.7 percent in Rio Blanco County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobless rate edged down a tenth of a point to 2.9 percent as nonfarm payrolls increased 7,200.

Over the past year, the statewide jobless rate has decreased four-tenths of a point as nonfarm payrolls have increased 52,700. The biggest job gains have occurred in the professional and business services, leisure and hospitality and educational and health services sectors.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls decreased eight-tenths of an hour over the past year to 33.6 hours. Average hourly earnings increased $1.46 to $30.24.