July jobless rate stays at 9.5 percent

Mesa County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged from June, settling at 9.5 percent in July, according to data released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The state unemployment rate remained at 8 percent in June and July.

The county’s unemployment rate remained the same despite losing 100 people from the ranks of the unemployed in July compared to June. That’s because the roster of employed people in the county also lost 100 people between June and July.

The dip in the local labor force led Mesa County Workforce Center Supervisor Gilbert Lujan to suspect people are leaving the area between school years.

A seven-month streak of losses in the county’s labor force, which includes employed and unemployed people, stalled in February and March, when the area gained 800 people in its work force.

After a flat month in April, the cycle began again and the county lost 100 people from the labor force in May, another 400 in June, and another 500 people in July, he said.

Some of that loss, at least in the unemployment sector, could be because of people running out of unemployment benefits, Lujan said.

Last July, 3,026 people were receiving unemployment benefits in Mesa County. This July, the tally was 1,751, a 42 percent decrease.

The number of first-time unemployment filings decreased at a slightly lower rate, 37 percent, during the same time, going from 591 in July 2009 to 373 in July 2010.

“You can see now that people are getting toward the tail end of their unemployment (benefits),” Lujan said. “Now more than anything the question is: Do I qualify for an extension?”

If and when a person can get a benefits extension is determined on a case-by-case basis and relies on timing, Lujan said.

“It all depends on when they last filed, when they first filed. There are some people that have been on unemployment for two years. Those are the people that nearly ran out of benefits when a new extension came out,” Lujan said.

Mesa County’s unemployment rate is usually lower in August than in July because students that entered the work force for the summer return to school, Lujan said.

He said that trend may not continue this August because most jobs at the Grand Junction office for the U.S. Census Bureau ended by the middle of August.


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