Local unemployment at 9.5 percent in March

Mesa County’s unemployment rate increased from 9.3 percent in February to 9.5 percent in March, according to data released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The tiny inflation in the local rate is due to a slight bump in the number of unemployed residents and a slightly larger decline in the number of Mesa County residents with jobs. The shifts amounted to a net loss of 46 people from Mesa County’s labor force. A shift that small should not be alarming, considering there were 79,027 Mesa County residents seeking or maintaining employment last month, Mesa County Workforce Center Business Services Manager Suzie Miller said.

“It seems less significant because we’re continuing with a trend of seeing lots of jobs come in,” Miller said.

The Workforce Center posted 887 job orders this year as of Friday, Miller said. That’s up from 809 job orders posted between Jan. 1 and April 20, 2011, and 635 orders, which can include one or more job openings, between Jan. 1 and April 20, 2010.

More jobs are appearing statewide, according to Department of Labor and Employment Chief Economist Alexandra Hall. During a conference call Friday with reporters, she said the state’s unemployment rate remained at 8.2 percent in February and March, but only because more people are optimistically entering the workforce and adding to the ranks of Colorado’s employed and unemployed. Hall said the state could regain all of the jobs it has lost since the Great Recession by mid-2013 if Colorado keeps adding jobs at the current speed.

“The more positive signs people see in the economy, the more likely they are to enter the job market,” she said.

Mesa County may not have grown its labor force between February and March the way the state did, but it did take on 556 more workers and job seekers year-over-year in March.

Miller said the slight uptick month-over-month in the March unemployment rate may be a sign of a mild winter and the early onset of spring spreading out the normal influx of warm-weather jobs in March. She said the unemployment rate could see a downward shift over the coming months for two different reasons, depending on how people react to a new unemployment-benefit extension that requires recipients of benefits to follow more regulations designed to help them find a job.

“Either they’re going to make (job seekers) more aggressive on their job search, or they’re going to give up,” Miller said.

In March, 289 Mesa County residents filed for unemployment benefits for the first time, down from 334 in February. The number of locals continuing to receive unemployment benefits declined from 1,553 in February to 1,501 in March.


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