Mesa County jobless rate spikes in June

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The Mesa County unemployment rate spiked in June, an annual increase attributed in part to high school and college graduates entering the work force in search of work.

The jobless rate is expected to retreat, though, as increased hiring for the summer and fall gives way to holiday hiring, said Curtis Englehart, manager of the Mesa Count Workforce Center in Grand Junction. “Hopefully, we’ll see that downward trend.”

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in Mesa County jumped nearly a point to 6.6 percent in June, according to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The number of people in Mesa County counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work increased 655 to 4,808 in June, a gain Englehart attributed in part to new grads hunting for jobs.

“That’s nothing that we haven’t seen,” he said, adding the jobless rate in Mesa County typically spikes in June before declining for the remainder of the year.

Englehart said he expects that pattern to continue this year with increased hiring for seasonal jobs in the construction and hospitality sectors as well as more openings for office and sales positions. Holiday hiring in October and November tends to further pull down jobless rates, he said.

For June, though, Mesa County payrolls decreased 529 to 68,425. The overall labor force, which includes the unemployed and employed, edged up 86 to 73,233.

Over the past year, payrolls have grown 747, or about 1.1 percent. The ranks of the unemployed have grown 401, or about 9 percent. The labor force has increased 1,148 — nearly 1.6 percent — but remains well below a peak force of 84,000 in November 2009.

The jobless rate was lower at 6.1 percent last year.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance edged up 24 to 255 in Mesa County in June. Claims for the first half of 2016 were down, however, 501 to 1,707 compared to the first half of 2015.

A measure of labor demand moderated with a decrease in the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center. For June, 418 orders were posted, down 43 from the same month last year. For the first half of 2016, 2,570 orders were posted, down 137 from the first half of 2015.

Meanwhile, seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates also rose in neighboring Western Colorado counties in June: up a tenth of point to 4.3 percent in Garfield County, up four-tenths of a point to 5.8 percent in Delta County and 6.2 percent in Rio Blanco County and up a half point to 5.1 percent in Montrose County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose four-tenths of a point to 3.7 percent even though nonfarm payrolls increased an estimated 5,000. The jobless rate and payrolls are based on the results of separate surveys of households and businesses, respectively.

The unemployment rate rose as the number of people reporting themselves employed decreased and the number of people looking for work increased.

The largest payroll gains were reported in the construction; professional and business services; and trade, transportation and utilities sectors. The largest decline occurred in the leisure and hospitality sector.

Over the past year, the state unemployment rate has retreated two-tenths of a point as nonfarm payrolls have increased 61,500. The largest year-over-year employment gains have occured in the construction, leisure and hospitality and professional and business services sector. Employment has declined in mining and logging.

Over the past year, the average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls has shortened three-tenths of an hour to 33.7 hours. Average hourly earnings have increased 43 cents to $26.84.