Late to the recession, county ineligible for stimulus money

By EMILY ANDERSON
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Mesa County’s delayed entry into the recession cost it a piece of nearly a quarter-billion dollars in economic recovery bonds.

Colorado qualifies for $99 million worth of newly created Recovery Zone Economic Development bonds and $148.5 million worth of new Recovery Zone Facility bonds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Seven counties, including Mesa, will be left out of the bond program because an Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department formula cuts out counties with little or no employment decline between December 2007 and December 2008.

While 57 Colorado counties shed jobs during that period, Mesa County was still doing well, actually increasing its employment numbers from 77,720 to 79,889. The county’s full labor force, which includes people with jobs or those looking for jobs, increased from 80,530 people to 83,806 between December 2007 and December 2008.

Job creation occurred, but it didn’t keep up with population growth. While employment increased by just under 3 percent, unemployment from year to year shot up 40 percent.

Mesa County’s late entry into the economic downturn may have aided the problematic trend, Grand Junction Economic Partnership CEO Ann Driggers said.

“At the time the national economy was tanking, Grand Junction was a bright spot on the map. People quite rightly made the decision to move here,” she said.

“Now we’re following the national economy and we’re stuck with these people who have nowhere else to go.”

David Porfirio, manager of business services at the Mesa County WorkForce Center, said job listings have remained about the same since the end of 2008, when job postings suddenly plummeted from 600 to 700 jobs to just over 200 jobs.

While job postings remained stagnant in the first half of the year, the number of job seekers registered on the workforce center’s database increased from about 3,500 six months ago to 9,150 today, according to Porfirio.

“The consolation news is job postings have stayed the same,” Porfirio said. “Although the news is not good overall, there are signs of hope.”

The labor force kept increasing from December 2008 to this May, reaching 86,121. But this time, 735 fewer people had jobs and the unemployment count nearly doubled from 3,917 in December to 6,967 in May.

The job-loss trend was duly noted by a portion of job seekers. Grand Junction’s labor force lost 200 or 600 people who moved or quit their job search between April and May, depending on whether a person cites seasonally adjusted numbers.


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