Mesa County labor market “steady”

The Mesa County labor market appears to have stabilized with a slight increase in the unemployment rate, but also a slight increase in hiring.

“It’s just been pretty steady, which is good to see,” said Gilbert Lujan, supervisor of the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

After dropping for three straight months, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in Mesa County edged up a tenth in May to 9.9 percent.

According to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor, the employed labor force decreased 908 to 68,360. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work rose 14 to 7,551. The overall labor force — the total of the employed and unemployed — fell 894 to 75,911.

At this time last year, the unemployment rate was slightly higher at 10 percent and so were the ranks of the unemployed at 7,959. The overall work force was estimated at 79,455.

Although the jobless rate ticked up in May, Lujan said labor demand has increased slightly in some industry sectors, among them construction, extraction, production and transportation.

As of June 17, 162 job orders were posted at the work force center, while 8,639 applicants were registered there. Lujan said the number of job orders has ranged from 160 to 180 over the last three to four months.

The monthly jobless rate has dropped two points since hitting 11.9 percent in January — lower than what Lujan had anticipated. He remains concerned, though, the shrinking labor force reflects people moving out of Mesa County to take advantage of better job prospects elsewhere as well as some people who’ve become discouraged and given up on job searches.

While the unemployment rate could spike a bit in June as high school and college students enter the work force looking for summer jobs, Lujan expects the labor market to remain stable through the summer. “I think we’ll see stability at least through August.”

The seasonally unadjusted jobless rates fell in four neighboring Western Colorado counties in May: down four-tenths to 9 percent in Delta County, down a tenth to 9.3 percent in Garfield County, down three-tenths to 10.9 percent in Montrose County and down seven-tenths to 5.7 percent in Rio Blanco County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged down a tenth to 8.7 percent with an estimated increase of 4,200 in nonfarm payrolls.