Mesa County unemployment at 8.6%

Mesa County wrapped 2012 with an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent, according to data released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The unemployment rate increased month-over-month in nearly two-thirds of Colorado’s 64 counties in December, including in Mesa County. The county had an 8.4 percent unemployment rate in November.

Mesa County added 513 more employees in December compared to November, but also stacked an additional 231 residents onto the unemployment roster.

Suzie Miller, business services manager at the Mesa County Workforce Center, said 2012 was on track to be one of the best years for jobs since 2008 in Mesa County. But uncertainty about potential federal program cuts and tax increases — plus the usual wintertime slowdown of business, especially for warm-weather-dependent jobs — resulted in a disappointing fourth quarter.

“I think employers did slow down hiring because they were unsure what the fiscal cliff was going to look like,” Miller said. “Our fourth quarter open positions were down 10 percent, which is a significant indicator there were concerns about hiring.”

The workforce center posted more job orders compared to the three previous years all throughout 2012 until December. The year closed with 2,741 job orders — three fewer than 2011’s tally. Job orders had been so ahead until the final three months of 2012, the fourth quarter of 2012 had to post nearly 200 fewer job orders just to fall behind 2011’s total.

Still, Miller said there were some positive takeaways from 2012. Every month in 2012 had a lower unemployment rate than the corresponding month in 2011 except for November, when Mesa County tied its November 2011 unemployment rate.

The year also finished 1,754 employees ahead of Mesa County’s employment tally in December 2011. That’s a 2.4 percent increase. The county had a 1.8 percent increase year-over-over in unemployed residents, adding 127 unemployed people in December 2012 compared to December 2011.

Colorado finished 2012 with both more employed people and fewer unemployed people December-over-December. The statewide unemployment rate decreased from 7.7 percent in December 2011 to 7.5 percent in both November and December, 2012.

Miller said there are some signs of progress for 2013 in Mesa County with 142 job orders listed through the workforce center in the first 18 days of January.

But, some resolutions for the so-called fiscal cliff are still undecided and January had the local highest unemployment rate of any month in 2010, 2011 and 2012.


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