Mesa County jobless rate trends downward

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Curtis Englehart

The unemployment rate continues to trend down in Mesa County, although at a slow pace.

“We’re seeing movement in the right direction, but it’s a very gradual movement,” said Curtis Englehart, director of the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

Labor demand remains strong, particularly in the health care sector, and employers struggle to fill job openings, Englehart said. That will leave some businesses short-handed for the holiday season.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a point to 4.7 percent in Mesa County in October, according to the latest estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. With declines in each of the last four months, joblessness has retreated to its lowest level since the rate stood at 4.1 percent in February 2020. At this time last year, the rate was higher at 6.3 percent.

Between September and October 2021, Mesa County payrolls increased 157 to 73,314. The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work decreased 148 to 3,612. The labor force, which includes the employed and unemployed, edged up nine to 76,926.

Compared to a year ago, payrolls increased 1,069 even as the ranks of the unemployed fell 1,211. The labor force decreased 142.

Labor demand as measured by the number of job orders posted at the Mesa County Workforce Center increased between September and October as well as on a year-over-year basis, Englehart said.

For October, 1,069 orders were posted. That’s up 49 from September and 360 from a year ago. Through the first 10 months of 2021, 9,686 orders were posted. That’s an increase of 4,392 and nearly 83 percent from the same span in 2020.

Labor demand remains strong across industry sectors, but is particularly pronounced in the health care sector, Englehart said. He attributed the situation in part to turnover related to burnout in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as COVID vaccine mandates. “It’s a combination of things.”

Employers in other sectors also have struggled to fill job openings, including small retailers gearing up for the holiday shopping season. High school and college students looking for seasonal jobs have helped fill some openings, he said.

Looking ahead, Englehart said he expects the jobless rate to continue to trend downward through the end of the year. The jobless rate historically spikes in Mesa County in January to its highest level of the year, and he said he’ll be watching to see if that continues and to what extent.

For October, seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates also retreated in neighboring Western Colorado counties: down a tenth of a point to 4 percent in Garfield County and two-tenths of a point to 3.9 percent in Delta County, 4 percent in Montrose County and 4.1 percent in Rio Blanco County.

The statewide seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell two-tenths of a point to 5.4 percent as nonfarm payrolls increased 10,600 from September to October.

Over the past year, payrolls increased 104,600 with the biggest gains in the leisure and hospitality; professional and business services; and trade, transportation, and utilities sectors. Construction payrolls declined.

Over the past 18 months, Colorado has regained 313,100 of the 375,800 jobs lost between February and April 2020 because of the pandemic and related restrictions.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls shortened four-tenths of an hour over the past year to 33.3 hours. Average hourly earnings increased $1.71 to $32.54.

The post Mesa County jobless rate trends downward first appeared on The Business Times.

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