Mesa County jobless rate slips; is still state’s highest

Mesa County’s unemployment rate has decreased each month since peaking in July. But new in November was an increase in the number of people employed in the county.

The local seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 8.5 percent in October to 8.2 percent in November, with the unemployment total decreasing by 300 people to 6,600.

The number of employed Mesa County residents grew from 73,800 to 74,200. Still, the number of employed Mesa County residents decreased by 5,900 people year over year, and the unemployment rate nearly doubled from 4.3 percent in November 2008.

Colorado’s unemployment rate decreased from 7 percent to 6.9 percent in November. Last month, the state gained 6,300 employees and lost 2,700 people from the unemployment line.

Before anyone uncorks a bottle of champagne to celebrate the numbers, though, David Porfirio, manager of business services at the Mesa County Workforce Center, has a different side of the story to tell. Porfirio said the unemployment rate measured by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment does not include people who are unemployed and have run out of unemployment benefits, are not eligible for benefits, or have not filed for benefits.

“We think the real unemployment rate is much higher. We’re probably closer to the national level, which is about 10 percent,” Porfirio said.

Porfirio said economists consider 4.5 percent unemployment healthy.

Job orders have stuck at about 90 a day at the workforce center for months, he said, but the number of new job seekers continues to increase.

There are approximately 9,900 unemployed people registered with the workforce center looking at those 90 job orders each day, Porfirio estimated. That’s about 100 people for every one job.

The ratio is better for health care positions, about nine people for every job order. It’s worst for people from the construction industry. Porfirio said there are about five jobs for construction consistently on the job list, but about 1,109 people with a construction background registered with the workforce center.

“When you start to break it down by occupation, that’s when you start to see some startling things,” Porfirio said.


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