Mesa County jobless rate takes a dip

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The unemployment rate has retreated in Mesa County as hiring picks up for the summer.

Moreover, the overall labor force in the county has increased even as claims for unemployment insurance has decreased.

“I think this is encouraging,” said Celina Kirnberger, business services supervisor at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

According to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in Mesa County dropped two-tenths of a point to 5.7 percent in May.

The jobless rate had held for two months at 5.9 percent, the highest level of the year. At this time last year, the rate stood at 5.5 percent.

For May 2016, Mesa County payrolls increased 814 to 69,079. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work edged down 105 to 4,158. The overall labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, rose 709 to 73,237.

Over the past year, payrolls have grown 567, about eight-tenths of a percent. The ranks of the unemployed have increased 157. The overall labor force has increased 724, but remains well below the peak force of 84,000 in November 2009.

Meanwhile, initial claims for unemployment insurance have moderated, Kirnberger said.

For May 227 claims were filed in Mesa County, 12 less than the same month last year. A total of 1,452 claims were filed in the first five months of 2016, down from 1,573 for the same span in 2015.

A measure of job demand ticked up in May in the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center, Kirnberger said.

For May, 451 orders were posted at the center, up 31 from the same month last year. A total of 2,051 job orders were posted in the first five months of 2016, down 195 from the same span in 2015.

Kirnberger said the drop in the unemployment rate in May follows what’s usually a downward trend in Mesa County during the summer and fall in part because of an increase in seasonal hiring.

Kirnberger said she’s even more encouraged by the upward trend in the labor force in Mesa County, likely a combination of more residents finding work and people moving to the area.

Meanwhile, seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates also dropped in three neighboring Western Colorado counties in May: six-tenths of a point to 5.7 percent in Rio Blanco County, four-tenths to 5.2 percent in Delta County and two-tenths to 4.5 percent in Montrose County. The jobless rate rose two-tenths of a point to
4.1 percent in Garfield County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased three-tenths of a point to 3.4 percent in May despite an estimated increase of 300 jobs on nonfarm payrolls. The jobless rate and payrolls are calculated using separate surveys of households and businesses.

Private sector payrolls shrank 500 with decreases in the leisure and hospitality, education and health services and construction sectors. Government employment increased 800.

Over the past year, the state unemployment rate has dropped a half point even as nonfarm payrolls have grown 62,000. The largest gains have occurred in the leisure and hospitality, construction and education and health services sectors. Employment in mining and logging has declined.

Over the past year, the average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls has increased two-tenths of an hour to 33.9 hours. Average hourly earnings have increased 45 cents to $26.82.