Jobless rate surges in Mesa County

Unemployment rose more than a percentage point in Mesa County in February, according to numbers released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Mesa County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached 6.7 percent, up from 5.6 percent in January, and was nearly double the 3.4 percent recorded in February 2008. State unemployment hit 7.2 percent in February, up from 6.6 percent in January and 4.8 percent in February 2008.

The last time the state unemployment rate hit 7.2 percent was February 1988.

The state labor department has not tracked seasonally adjusted numbers for Mesa County long enough to find the last time the rates were this high. The last time the numbers that were not seasonally adjusted hit 6.7 percent was in March 1994.

Even with the big jump, Mesa County Workforce Center employees feared a higher number was coming.

“It was lower than I thought it was going to be,” said Gilbert Lujan, supervisor of the Mesa County Workforce Center.

So far in March there have been 896 initial unemployment claims in Mesa County. Last month that number was 729.

Lujan said from what he has seen a significant portion of the newly unemployed workers come from the oil and gas industry, and others come from the service companies that support them.

Although the initial claims number is high, Lujan said, it would be higher if it weren’t for the good severance and vacation pay some of the laid-off workers currently are receiving.

“It does worry me a bit, ’cause it’s so much higher than last month,” Lujan said.

On a positive note, the number of job openings at the center have remained steady over the past few months. Between 110 and 120 have been in the system, Lujan said, adding that some companies have begun to hire for seasonal positions.

“Usually when the weather changes, things just seem to come alive,” Lujan said.


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