Countywide unemployment remains steady in January

Agencies provide opportunities for residents

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From job training programs offered by the Colorado Workforce Center to occupational and extended learning classes offered by the community college, two Moffat County businesses are working to make sure residents remain employed.

Statistics show their efforts are making an impact.

Moffat County charted a 5.5 percent unemployment rate in January a number officials say is low for this time of year in a rural area. In January 1999, unemployment was at 7.6 percent higher than the 10-year average of 6.5 percent.

Though the rate is low for Moffat County, it exceeds most Colorado counties and the state average of 2.6 percent. Moffat County has the eighth highest unemployment rate in the state and historically has an unemployment rate higher than the state average.

Officials aren't sure what to attribute the rate to.

"The season has a lot to do with it," Monty Bond, employment specialist with the Colorado Workforce Center, said. "As soon as construction starts and some summer recreation and resort jobs open, it gets better."

Colorado Workforce Center Employment Specialist Kandy Kropinak said the rate could mean a number of things.

"It could be a lack of training, it could be a lack of the right kind of jobs," she said. "We're suffering from a labor shortage less than other areas around us."

The Workforce Center has job openings listed in its database, but most require specific skills or training, such as nursing or computer skills.

Most of the unemployment rate can be attributed to a lack of service jobs, Kropinak said.

"Our average wage is higher than the surrounding areas, but the mines don't hire as many people as the service industry would," she said. "People can work in resort areas, but at a smaller wage."

Those wages usually aren't enough to support a family, Kropinak said.

She believes the key to reducing the number of unemployed in Moffat County is to promote economic development. When Moffat County attracts businesses, more employment opportunities for a diverse group of workers exists, she said.

Colorado is growing and facing a labor shortage in many communities, but that growth has not hit Moffat County in anything more than a slight population increase.

The number of employed Coloradans climbed 15,200 during December 1999, to a record 2,223,761. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, 65,100 people were looking for work at the end of 1999.

Hiring was greatest in the two largest industry categories in the state, trade and services the two categories Moffat County lacks most.

"A lot of job growth is concentrated on the Front Range so it's not surprising areas outside of that would have a higher employment rate," Mike Rose, senior economist with the Colorado Department of Labor, said.

A Metro Denver job vacancy survey conducted by the Department of Labor, Labor Market Information Unit, showed nearly 47,000 full and part-time jobs open for immediate hire.

"The state economy continues to be dynamic, generating new employment opportunities at a fast pace. A large part of this growth is occurring in what is being labeled 'the new economy,' which is driven by innovations and advances in technology," according to The January 2000 issue of Colorado Labor and Industry Focus, a publication of the Colorado Department of Labor.

The Colorado Workforce Center reported this morning a database of 171 jobs open in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties.

"And this is our low time, our quiet time of the season," Kropinak said.

According to Rose, statewide growth has kept the state unemployment average below normal for the past few years. He said most economists consider a 4.5 percent unemployment rate fairly low.

Nationally, the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent in January.

Both the Colorado Workforce Center and Colorado Northwestern Community College-Craig (CNCC-Craig) are working to teach job skills.

"We play a real strong role in helping people find jobs," CNCC-Craig Career Development and Placement Coordinator Cheryl Jones said. "We're really involved quite extensively with the community in helping people find jobs. That's why we're here."

The college offers a variety of degree programs including business administration, human services and criminal justice. Its occupational programs include industrial and instrumentation technology, office administration and small business management. But probably most important to people polishing their skills to get a job are its accounting, bookkeeping and computer classes.

"Generally what a lot of students do to brush up on their skills to help get them back into the workforce is brush up on their computer skills," Jones said.

Many people will enroll, not in a degree-seeking program, but in one or two classes that will update their skills for a more advanced career opportunity, Jones said.

The Workforce Center offers the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), a school-to-career program, and helps complete applications and create resum

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