Mesa County unemployment up again: 9.2%

Mesa County began 2013 with a 9.2 percent unemployment rate, according to data released Monday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

That puts the county’s January unemployment rate nearly two percentage points higher than the state’s unemployment rate for the same month, which was 7.3 percent.

Higher unemployment and lower employment month over month elevated the local unemployment rate from 8.9 percent in December. Suzie Miller, business services manager at the Mesa County Workforce Center, said actions such as Grand Junction losing a Choice Hotels call center at the end of December, employers being afraid to hire until more details of federal budget changes emerged, and the typical winter layoffs for seasonal workers helped push the area’s unemployment rate to its highest point in January since July.

“It seems like we start getting momentum and then things prevent us from getting rapid change,” Miller said.

January had the highest unemployment rate of the year in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Miller said she hopes Mesa County can repeat that pattern this year. Good omens, she said, include a slight drop year over year in January in the number of Mesa County residents receiving unemployment benefits and an increase in the number of job orders posted in January, from 223 in 2012 to 242 in 2013. Miller said she would like to see more full-time job offers among those postings. She added salaries are mostly stagnant, too. But nearly every employer at the workforce center’s job fair last month hired someone they met at that fair and “a good portion hired multiple people.”

“While it feels like we’re stagnant, there is some movement there,” Miller said.

February unemployment numbers will be released next week.


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