Grand Junction jobless rate hits 9.4%

Rate is highest in state; analyst expects improvement soon

Grand Junction unemployment hit a current-recession high in January, climbing to 9.4 percent in the metropolitan area.

The area was just beginning to experience sweeping job losses in January 2009, when the unemployment rate in Grand Junction was 5.5 percent.

Mesa County Workforce Center Supervisor Gilbert Lujan said he expected a jump from December’s 8.9 percent unemployment rate because of cold weather, which usually impedes job growth. But he didn’t expect a jump of 0.5 percent because hiring was slow during the holiday season, so the traditional bump in January unemployment after seasonal work ends wasn’t much of a factor this year, he said.

After the Workforce Center posted 110 to 115 job orders on average in January, job orders hovered closer to 130 to 150 in February and March, Lujan said. With weather warming up and more landscaping, construction and other outdoor jobs opening up, Lujan said he’s optimistic unemployment numbers will look better for the next few months.

Lujan said he is encouraged by a continuing drop in people starting unemployment benefits. Initial filings reached a record high of 1,012 in March 2009, but were down to 560 in February.

Even with fewer people starting unemployment benefits, plenty of people still receive them, Lujan said. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, 7,400 people in Grand Junction were unemployed in January, up from 4,700 in January 2009.

Although extensions can keep a person on unemployment insurance for around 18 months, Lujan said people frequently come into the Workforce Center worried about what they’ll do if they reach the end of their benefits without finding a job.

Lujan said he hopes those people take advantage of a second visit by unemployment counselors taking place today and Friday at the Workforce Center, 2897 North Ave.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 9,000 Coloradans will lose their benefits by the end of this week if further extensions are not approved by Congress. Colorado has the 10th largest amount of people in the United States facing the end of their benefits. Thirty states and the District of Columbia would see 300 or more people drop from their benefits list.


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