Mesa County unemployment rate retreats

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Celina Kirnberger

The monthly unemployment rate has retreated in Mesa County with an increase in payrolls and decrease in the ranks of the unemployed.

The trend is expected to continue even as summer hiring gives way to preparations for the upcoming holiday shopping season, said Celina Kirnberger, employment services supervisor at the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction. “It’s kind of what we expected.”

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate stood at 3.6 percent in August, according to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. That’s a decline of three-tenths of a point after the July rate was revised upward to 3.9 percent. At this time last year, the rate was higher at 5.4 percent.

Between July and August, Mesa County payrolls increased 1,061 to 75,944. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work decreased 217 to 2,815. The labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, grew 844 to 78,759.

Over the past year, payrolls increased 2,710 — or about 3.7 percent. The ranks of the unemployed decreased 1,395. The labor force grew 1,315.

Kirnberger said labor demand remains strong across most industry sectors and particularly in the health care sector. “Health care is always the big need.”

The number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center has declined on a year-over-basis. But the number of job openings hasn’t changed as dramatically, she said.

For August, 850 job orders were posted. That’s down 18.1 percent from the 1,038 orders posted for the same month last year.  Through the first eight months of 2022, 5,819 orders were posted. That’s down 23.4 percent from the 7,597 orders posted for the same span in 2021.

Year-to-date job openings held steady, she said, with 1,453 openings in 2022 and 1,468 openings in 2021.

Kirnberger said she expects the monthly jobless rate to continue to trend downward through the end of the year before what’s traditionally a seasonal spike after the holidays. 

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates also decreased in neighboring Western Colorado counties between July and August — a tenth of a point to 3.5 percent in Delta County and 2.8 percent in Garfield County and two-tenths of a point to 3.1 percent in Montrose County and 4.1 percent in Rio Blanco County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobless rate edged up a tenth of a point to 3.4 percent.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 12,400 between July and August. Over the past year, Colorado payrolls grew 108,300 with the biggest gains in the leisure and hospitality; professional and business services; and trade, transportation and utility sectors.

Over the past 28 months, payrolls increased 429,900, more than offsetting the 374,500 jobs lost in March and April 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

Over the past year, the average workweek for Colorado employees on private, nonfarm payrolls shortened 1.2 hours to 33.2 hours. Average hourly earnings increased $2.05 to $34.17.