First-time jobless claims down since winter

Applications for continued benefits up in county as people try to find work

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People filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits in Mesa County have decreased significantly after a busy first quarter of the year. But many of the people who filed earlier in the year still are receiving unemployment benefits, according to the Mesa County Workforce Center.

First-time filings chugged uphill earlier this year from 719 initial claims in January to 729 in February and 1,012 in March. April brought fewer initial claims, 700, and May had even fewer, 541.

From there, the numbers plateaued, with 539 first-time filings in June and 591 in July.

As for how many people are continuing to file every other week for unemployment benefits, that number has grown, according to Gilbert Lujan, a supervisor at the Mesa County Workforce Center. Continued claims include people drawing from unemployment for the initial amount of time granted by the government and those that have had their benefits extended.

“If you compare June continued claims, there were 414 last June and 3,017 this June,” Lujan said.

Although a government report released Friday showed the nation’s unemployment decreased slightly from June to July, Lujan is not convinced the news will be the same when July 2009 unemployment figures are released Aug. 21 for Grand Junction.

“We’re behind the national trend. We entered into this recession later on than most of the country. It’s going to take us a little while longer to get out of it,” Lujan said.

Colorado unemployment decreased in April for the first time since September, then rose again in May and June. Grand Junction hasn’t seen a dip in unemployment since September.

As for when Grand Junction, or anyone, will fully pull out of the economic downturn, Lujan said it’s a guessing game.

“Some people say we’ve hit rock bottom. Others say we’re going to slip a little more. When we get July’s numbers, that will tell us a lot,” he said.


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