Mesa County Nov. unemployment at 8.4%

Mesa County’s unemployment rate increased from 8.3 percent in October to 8.4 percent in November after just five people dropped off the jobless roster but 1,104 residents became unemployed month-over-month.

Colorado’s unemployment rate remained the same month-over-month at 7.5 percent but dropped from 7.7 percent year-over-year, according to data released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Last month’s unemployment rate matched November 2011’s unemployment rate in Mesa County, although more people were working or looking for work locally this November.

November’s employment count was higher than all months in the first half of 2012 and one of only three, consecutive months in 2012 when fewer than 7,000 people in the county were counted as unemployed. Still, with 73,627 workers counted locally last month, November was the worst month for employment in Mesa County since July.

Mesa County Workforce Center Business Services Manager Suzie Miller said winter months are typically slower for employment. She added the labor force may have decreased in November as people lost seasonal or other employment and possibly chose to wait until the first of the year in 2013 to search for more work.

Although the Workforce Center is still on pace to post more job orders in 2012 than in any year since 2008, Miller said November and December have been slower months for job openings. The Workforce Center posted 136 job orders in November and got 107 new job orders in the first three weeks of December. There were 63 more job orders posted in November 2011 than this November and 30 more orders in the first three weeks of December 2011 than in the same period this year, according to Miller.

Miller suspects some businesses are hesitant to hire until they find out what exactly will happen at the end of the year with federal taxes and programs.

The so-called “fiscal cliff” looming at the end of 2012, if unaltered, would increase taxes and cut federal funding across departments. The cliff may have even more bad news for job-seekers, as it currently calls for the federal government to stop funding unemployment insurance benefits for pay periods after Dec. 29 for people who have received benefits for more than six months.

Miller said she suspects that change may impact Mesa County’s December unemployment rate, as would layoffs planned to begin Dec. 28 at Choice Hotels’ Grand Junction call center.

“I think right now it’s around 80 to 100 jobs” that will be lost, Miller said. “We met with a lot of (the employees being laid off) and some people are finding jobs already.”

A bright spot for job-seekers in the new year, Miller said, is that the Workforce Center has already filled a quarter of its booths for the center’s job fair Feb. 5 at the Doubletree Hotel. Miller said she hopes to see about 40 businesses who are hiring participate in the fair. Grocers, landscapers and construction companies have signed on, but Miller said “there’s an opportunity for every level of occupation to be represented.”


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