Mesa County unemployment hits recession-era high of 10.1%

Mesa County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached a recession-era high in November, climbing to 10.1 percent.

The county’s unemployment rate increased half a percentage point between October and November. The local unemployment rate surpassed the national average of 9.8 percent in November after the county dropped 100 employed people and gained 400 unemployed residents in a month, according to data released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Colorado’s unemployment rate increased 0.2 of a percentage point to 8.6 percent in November. There were 2,400 fewer Coloradans listed as employed in November compared to October, and 6,900 more were listed as unemployed.

Job orders have been headed in the wrong direction during the fourth quarter this year, Mesa County Workforce Center Director Sue Tuffin said. The workforce center had 187 job listings in October, then 153 in November. The center had 116 job orders listed as of Friday.

Tuffin said that may sound discouraging, but this December is looking better than last December, when the workforce center averaged 68 job listings.

Construction is taking the biggest hit, while health care jobs are going strong, and transportation job offerings are making a comeback, according to Tuffin. The hit to construction didn’t surprise Tuffin, given the weather.

“November is when we had our cold streak. Jobs affected by weather were impacted quickly,” Tuffin said.

Last year, unemployment decreased from 8.5 percent to 8.2 percent between October and November, which were mild months, but rose to 9 percent when a cold snap hit in December, slowing construction. Also in late 2009, seasonal retail jobs failed to come through. Tuffin said it appears this year retail stores offered more seasonal work, but she won’t know for sure how much that impacted the local labor force until December unemployment numbers are released Jan. 25.

Mesa County unemployment numbers were released the same day President Barack Obama signed a bill extending unemployment benefits for an additional 13 months. Unemployed local residents can take some solace in that safety net, but Tuffin recommends anyone who gets a job offer should take it, even if it’s for less pay.

“Employers are going to look more positively on people that are currently working” when they apply, Tuffin said.

Those currently working also stay connected to a pipeline of information from fellow workers about who else is hiring and paying more.

“If you’re not in that loop anymore, you’re missing that conversation,” she said. “If you’ve been unemployed for six months or more, many have lost those contacts.”

Third-quarter personal-income numbers were released Friday. Colorado personal income from state unemployment benefits in the third quarter reached its highest point since 1990, when the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis began charting quarterly personal income. Coloradans collected $2.214 billion in unemployment payments during July, August and September, up from $2.031 billion in the third quarter of 2009 and $574 million in the third quarter of 2008.

Unemployment accounted for a little more than 1 percent of the $216 billion in income collected by Coloradans in the third quarter of 2010.

The largest amount of personal income earned in the private sector came from the professional, scientific and technical industry, which paid out $20.4 billion in income in the third quarter, while state and local government shelled out the most in the public sector, $18.5 billion.


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