Grand Junction has highest percentage drop in jobs |

Grand Junction has highest percentage drop in jobs

GRAND JUNCTION – The economic downturn, weak natural-gas prices and job losses in the energy field are catching up to the Grand Junction area, after a stretch of unprecedented growth.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Tuesday that out of 372 metropolitan areas in the country, the Grand Junction area had the largest percentage drop in jobs in December compared with a year earlier.

Mesa County Workforce Center Director Sue Tuffin said the plunge may appear so dramatic because of an extended boom in the area just before the downturn.

“For two years up until last summer, we had some of the highest job creation rates in the country,” said Grand Junction Economic Partnership President and CEO Ann Driggers. “We were adding so many jobs, so when we reduced jobs, it was skewed the other way.”

The number of people working non-farm jobs in and around Grand Junction went down 7.7 percent last year, from about 67,100 at the end of 2008 to 61,900 in December of last year.

But by sheer numbers, other Colorado metropolitan areas lost more jobs. The Denver-Aurora-Broomfield area had almost 1.2 million non-farm workers last December. That was down about 39,700 workers, or 3.2 percent, from December 2008, according to the Labor Department.

Grand Junction’s unemployment rate also rose in the same period last year, from 4.7 percent to 9 percent. That is still below the national rate of 10 percent.

The numbers were not adjusted for seasonal differences.

The area entered the recession late but has since seen some of the same slumps as the rest of the country, with falling home values, more foreclosure filings, declining residential construction, and lower sales and use tax revenues and hotel occupancy rates.

Now the area has seen job losses in construction, real estate, transportation and energy.

Cabela’s Inc. and American Furniture Warehouse, however, have said they plan to open new stores in the area, and the U.S. Census Bureau also has been hiring workers locally, Driggers said.

Tuffin said the Workforce Center’s database has 130 job orders, or calls from employers listing one or more jobs, and more than 11,000 people actively looking for work.

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