More jobs in Mesa County in August

Mesa County’s and Colorado’s unemployment rates each dropped by half a percentage point in August compared to July, according to data released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Colorado’s unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in August, while Mesa County’s rate settled out one percentage point higher at 8.8 percent.

While August marked the 42nd consecutive month the county’s unemployment rate surpassed the state’s, Mesa County’s job market had some new milestones to celebrate last month. August had the lowest unemployment rate and lowest unemployment count, at 7,114, of any month so far in 2012. The number of employed people in the county jumped to its highest mark since September 2009 in August, with 74,159 workers.

The number of people working or looking for work in Mesa County jumped to 81,273 people in August, a 35-month high. The increase correlates with a boost in job offerings in the area, according to Suzie Miller, business services manager for the Mesa County Workforce Center. The center had posted 2,180 job orders so far this year as of Friday, one more job order than was posted between Jan. 1 and Sept. 21, 2008, a year when Mesa County’s unemployment rate never exceeded 4.5 percent.

“It’s always good when the labor force and employment increases and unemployment decreases. It continues to correlate with some of the trends we’ve been seeing with job orders,” Miller said.

Job orders can include more than one position. While some job orders are on track with 2008, Miller said the days of energy companies hiring dozens of people in one order have given way to orders from the same companies for two to three jobs at a time.

Retail is bouncing back with recent hiring events for T.J. Maxx and Tractor Supply Company. Miller said about 700 people showed up at a T.J. Maxx hiring event for 127 positions last week and about 300 people came to a hiring event for 15 positions at Tractor Supply, also last week. Miller expects Sprouts Farmers Market to hire another 100 or so people when it opens early next year.

Retail jobs may not be the best-paying, but Miller said the 142 jobs added at Tractor Supply and T.J. Maxx have a chance to indirectly generate other positions in everything from utilities to security in the rest of the county. While Miller estimates more jobs are indirectly created each time a high-salary job comes to town, she still expects up to 32 jobs in other industries to pop up as a result of the 142 retail jobs being added to the community at the two stores.

Office and administrative job orders lead the Workforce Center’s job offerings at 22 orders, followed by 20 job orders in transportation and 19 in food preparation.

Alexandra Hall, chief economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said in a conference call with reporters Friday professional business services, manufacturing, trade and utilities are leading the way in job growth statewide, with mining, logging and construction getting a boost in Colorado in general. Hall said unemployment varied across the state this summer, with drought conditions possibly hurting some rural counties with agricultural jobs and the Waldo Canyon Fire hitting hospitality and leisure industries in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs had 9.1 percent unemployment in August, still a decrease from 9.8 percent in July.


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