GJ firms foresee more job cuts

Local governments layoff free – for now

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Thirty-one percent of respondents to a new Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce survey expect to eliminate staff at their businesses.

The poll wrapped Tuesday with responses from 399 local business professionals. In a November 2008 chamber poll, 22 percent of local employers planned to decrease staff numbers.

Local governments are hoping to avoid layoffs through budget-cutting measures other than layoffs. The city of Grand Junction has reassigned some personnel from departments with decreased workload to departments with increased workloads, said city spokeswoman Sam Rainguet.

Mesa County department heads have been instructed to fill an empty position only when necessary and, unlike past years, supervisors were not allowed to give merit-based pay increases to employees.

“We have had to make cuts, although none include furloughs or layoffs,” said Jessica Peterson, county spokeswoman. “We can’t say they’re off the table. It is certainly something we’d like to avoid if at all possible.”

Furloughs (unpaid days off) of up to four days are on the way for Colorado state employees. Gov. Bill Ritter said in a telephone conference with members of the press last week more furlough days may be added, and layoffs aren’t out of the question.

Community Hospital has avoided layoffs by staffing the hospital to fit patient numbers.

Community has weathered the recession well and is filling empty positions and gave pay increases in May, said President and CEO Chris Thomas. But signs of the economic downturn have appeared in the hospital.

“Our numbers of self-pay patients (without insurance) have gone up. I’m attributing that to some of the layoffs that have taken place in the valley,” Thomas said.

Business at U-Haul is good too, said Kyle Messamer. That’s because business for others has not been so good, he said.

“We haven’t been laying off anyone. We’re actually looking for people. With all the people moving out, we’re doing really well, actually,” Messamer said.

The June chamber survey also showed a decrease in economic confidence. Sixty-one percent of June respondents said they plan to delay capital expenditures in the next six months, up from 57 percent in November. Thirty percent of respondents said the local economy is stable, while in November the number was 55 percent.

However, the percentage of respondents who said the national economy is weak or extremely weak dropped slightly from 91 percent to 88 percent, a trend that didn’t surprise Diane Schwenke, executive director of the chamber.

“People are hanging on, they’re hoping it won’t last longer, but they’re also looking at how Mesa County tends to go into these cycles a little later and come out of them a little later,” she said.

A majority (56 percent) of those surveyed predicted the local economy will recover in 2010, with 32 percent of the total respondents predicting the change would come in the first six months of the year and 24 percent envisioning it happening in the last six months of the year.

Eleven percent predicted the Grand Junction economy will rebound in the last four months of 2009, while another 11 percent predict the recovery will arrive in 2011.


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