Mesa County trailing behind in economic growth

By: Sara Zendehnam Email
By: Sara Zendehnam Email

MESA COUNTY, Colo. Rhonda Plock moved to town from the Front Range one month ago and said even with 24 years of experience she's having a tough time finding a job here.

"I didn't realize that Grand Junction was still a little bit behind Denver as far as economic recovery," said Plock.

She isn't the only one who has noticed that trend. The Mesa County Workforce Center is constantly comparing pre-recession statistics to current numbers. In 2008 there were 64,000 jobs in Mesa County, and a report from June of this year shows we're still down about 4,800 jobs from that time.

While job creation is making up for some of the loss, the biggest industry that's seen a boost happens to be one of the lowest paying ones as well. There are 615 new jobs now compared to six years ago in the accommodation and food services field where the average salary is $19,000.

Construction jobs took a huge hit this year. In fact there are 2,500 less jobs in that industry, which pays $46,000 a year.

"We just haven't found the job creation that's really needed to revitalize things," Suzie Miller, Mesa County Workforce Center.

It's not all bad news though, there has been an increase in full time jobs since 2008 from 653 to 705 and health care and social assistance work has gone up by 555, a field that pays about $50,000 a year.

"We are still seeing positive signs that we're moving in the right direction probably just not as quick as we want to be," Miller.

An economic report studied 357 metro areas in the US and found that households making less than $35,000 a year outnumbered those making $75,000 or more a year. Every metro area in Colorado is fairing better. Households making $75,000 or more actually out number those making $35,000 or less, all with the exception of Pueblo and Grand Junction where our average salary is $39,000.

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