County unemployment rate jumps seventeen percent

Nathan Chynoweth of Grand Junction searches for work at the Mesa County Workforce Center

Mesa County’s unemployment rate jumped from 4.7 percent in December to 5.5 percent in January. The 0.8 percentage-point increase translates into a jump of 17 percent in the jobless rate.

The numbers, released by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, are seasonally adjusted.

“It’s high, but it’s not end-of-the-world high,” said Gilbert Lujan, supervisor of the Mesa County Workforce Center.  “We’re still well below the state rate.”

The jump nonetheless surprised Lujan. Before the numbers were released, he expected a rate of 5.3 percent for January, without seasonal adjustment. That number turned out to be 6.2 percent.

Statewide the seasonally adjusted rate for January was 6.6 percent, 2.3 percentage points higher than January 2008.

Lujan said he began to notice a shift in Grand Junction in September, when the unemployment rate and number of people applying for unemployment benefits began to rise.

“From that point on,” he said, “things started going up and never looked back.”

Numbers provided by the Workforce Center show that in September, 171 people in Mesa County put in new unemployment benefit claims. That number reached 719 in January.

February numbers were just as grim, with 729 new unemployment claims.

“In the last two years, Mesa County has seen both sides of the coin,” Lujan said.


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