Mesa County’s unemployment rate falls

Numbers deceiving, official says, because employment rate also down

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Grand Junction police investigate a one-vehicle rollover in the eastbound lanes of I-70 west of the Horizon Drive interchange this morning. No one was injured in the accident.

Mesa County’s unemployment rate went down two-tenths of a percentage point to 8.4 percent between September and October.

The drop, however, is deceiving, according to Mesa County Workforce Center Supervisor Gilbert Lujan.

The number of employed Mesa County residents shrank from 74,700 people in September to 73,900 people in October, according to seasonally adjusted numbers from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The area employed 79,500 people in October 2008. Two hundred people left the unemployment line between September and October, but the 6,800 people searching for work in Mesa County in October still outnumbered the people unemployed here in October 2008 by 3,300.

“Whether they moved out of the area or went back to school full-time or gave up on getting a job, it’s hard to say,” Lujan said of the unemployment decrease. Regardless, he said the unemployment rate is “not going down for the right reasons.”

The local unemployment rate doubled from October 2008 to October 2009, going from 4.2 percent to 8.4 percent. The Grand Junction metropolitan area, which includes all of Mesa County, had the highest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in the state. Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.9 percent in October.

Lujan said December employment numbers may be helped by some seasonal work, but there are not as many seasonal jobs available as there were last year.

Come January, Lujan said he expects to see a rise in people looking for jobs because they may set a New Year’s resolution to return to work after staying at home or giving up after a lengthy but unsuccessful job search. But there won’t necessarily be more jobs by then.

“If we keep on going at the pace we’re going at, January may prove to be a tough time to find employment,” Lujan said.

January is not usually a time for new jobs to emerge, even in a health economy, he added.

Those who do want a job should be flexible, he said.

“There’s more people that are willing to take positions outside what they were doing than I’ve seen before,” Lujan said.


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