January typically a slog for job-seekers, observers say
The month of January isn’t just sluggish for its nippy temperatures.
It’s also a month when Mesa County typically reports its highest unemployment rate for the year.
Although the national unemployment rate has been falling for months — from 7.9 percent in January 2013 to 6.7 percent by December — January typically tends to be difficult for people to find work.
The latest figures place the unemployment rate at 7.6 percent for Mesa County residents and slightly better for city dwellers, at 6.9 percent, both percentages reflecting November statistics.
Officials at Mesa County’s Workforce Center believe January’s slowdown can be attributed to several factors, including the end of the holidays’ seasonal work, a stoppage of construction work usually because of the cold weather, and more sluggish sales and demand for positions in the hospitality sector.
“Everything kind of scales back in the wintertime,” said Suzie Miller, business services manager at the Mesa County Workforce Center, 2897 North Ave. “We’re starting to gear up for the spring hiring and trying to stay positive and hope that it’s a good spring.”
The workforce center is reporting similar numbers of job openings, compared to last year at this time. To date from Jan. 1, the center has received 127 job orders from employers seeking workers. Each job order converts to two or three jobs, Miller said.
Thirty-seven employers have signed up for an upcoming job fair, Miller said, a number that is three less than last year’s fair.
“We’re seeing job orders still come in, maybe more part-time than normal,” she said. “The wages haven’t returned but we’re seeing some signs of improvement.”
As of Dec. 28, an estimated 1.3 million Americans lost extended unemployment benefits. In Mesa County, 287 residents received those benefits in November. A total of 908 county residents received some sort of unemployment benefits in November. That’s a decrease from Nov. 2012 when 1,109 residents received unemployment benefits.
Extended unemployment benefits are for people who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks.
Employees at the Mesa County Workforce Center contacted everyone on a list of people who would lose benefits after November, Miller said.
Miller said the majority of respondents said the biggest barrier to finding work was their age, being 50 years old or older. There also was a significant number of people aged 60 or older in the group who reported they would just retire when their benefits ran out, instead of continuing to look for work.
The list contained more women than men, Miller said.
“A lot of them were changing careers,” she said. “A lot of them declared that they had been in the construction and extraction industry (before they lost jobs).”