Mesa County ends 2011 with 9 percent unemployment

Mesa County’s unemployment rate finished the last month of 2011 at 9 percent, half of a percentage point above where the rate had been for the previous three months.

Colorado’s unemployment rate also increased, from 7.8 percent in November to 7.9 percent in December.

Mesa County Workforce Center Business Services Manager Suzie Miller said the rate increase reflects a common trend in the winter months, when construction and other outdoor jobs are harder to find. Although she predicted the rate may stay at 9 percent or increase during the slow winter months, Miller said residents should not take the increase as a sign the economy is headed back in the wrong direction.

The 8.5 percent unemployment rate Mesa County recorded in September, October and November was the lowest unemployment rate of 2011, according to data released Tuesday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. December’s 9 percent rate was the next-lowest in 2011 and lower than any month’s unemployment rate for Mesa County in 2010.

December’s local and state unemployment rates were also 1.4 percentage points and eight-tenths of a percentage point, respectively, below the previous December’s rates.

“We anticipated we would see some peaks and valleys, so we’re going to have some speed bumps. But we are getting better,” Miller said.

Miller said many job sectors are posting more job openings in 2011 and 2012 than they have since the recession began. The Mesa County Workforce Center posted 181 job orders in December, which is 29 more job orders than the center posted pre-recession in December 2007.

The center has posted 156 job orders so far in 2012, up from 153 orders in the first 23 days of 2011.

Miller said the increase in job offers is encouraging enough to convince the workforce center to host its first job fair since 2008. The fair will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. Miller said 37 employers have signed up so far to participate in the fair.

“We have the whole gamut: quite a few energy companies; health care companies; and other businesses,” she said.

Miller said job orders are popping up in a variety of sectors. One exception to the trend is construction, which Miller said has suffered even in warmer months because of a slowdown in residential and commercial building. Miller said about 14 percent of job orders processed through the Workforce Center are for construction or extraction jobs, while about 20 percent of applicants registered with the center are seeking jobs in that sector.

Overall, 6,930 Mesa County residents were seeking employment in December, and 70,316 residents were employed.


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