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Job hunt frustrates some in Vail Valley

Sarah Mausolf
smausolf@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail Daily file photoJob losses have hit the Vail Valley construction industry hard during the recession many economist believe has ended
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VAIL VALLEY – Jacob Williams is so serious about getting a job in Colorado’s Vail Valley, he had a professional revamp his resume.

“My resume looks great but nobody’s biting right now,” the 31-year-old Vail resident said.

Since Williams’ summer job at Piney Ranch ended in mid-September, he’s applied for more than 20 positions in Vail’s hospitality industry.

No luck.

Even though Williams boasts 16 years of restaurant experience (he once worked for Hawaiian celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi), losing his steady paycheck meant he had to trade his Vail apartment for couch surfing. He’s had a few nibbles on jobs, but no offers that start before the end of November.

“It’s very frustrating right now,” he said.

Just as some economists are declaring an end to the recession, a sobering report on Friday suggests the unemployment rate rocketed to double digits. The jobless rate soared to 10.2 percent in October, the highest since 1983, according to The Labor Department.

And as grim as that picture is, some say it actually underestimates the problem.

Billy McMillan, a foreman for All Valley Construction Incorporated in Edwards, said the numbers don’t count contract laborers who lost their jobs.

“The unemployment figure – if they’re saying it’s 10 percent unemployment – is a crock,” he said. “They’re just counting the numbers that the unemployment office was giving them, you know? It’s bigger than that. I think the unemployment rate is probably closer to 20 to 25 percent.”

Indeed, jobs are sparse in the construction industry. Donna Boyum is the office manager for SOS Staffing Services, an Eagle-Vail company that staffs temporary, permanent and direct hire jobs.

“One year ago, we had 80 to 100 ongoing laborers on construction sites,” she said. “Today we have 18. Of course, several large projects were completed but contrary to the past, there are no new upcoming projects on which to place these employees.”

For job seekers, the odds aren’t good.

Vail resident Ilka Witt, 23, said she knows a lot of people around town who are looking for jobs. What she doesn’t see are job ads.

“When I came here for the first time in 2007, in the newspaper there were two or three pages of employment (ads),” she said. “Even last year, it was a little bit better than this. Right now, in the newspaper, there is just a half page.”

On the flip side, some employers are swamped with qualified applicants.

David Courtney, owner of Beaver Liquors in Avon, received 60 resumes over the past week for a clerk job at the store.

“We got a great response and there’s no doubt about that,” he said, noting he filled the job Thursday.

The quality of applicants was better than when he posted jobs before the recession, he said.

“People that were making $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a year in the valley now have to settle for jobs for half of that,” Courtney said.

Despite the steady stream of quality candidates, Courtney still encountered a few that seemed unprofessional.

“Unshowered. Scruffy. Wearing your snowboard gear. Smelling like cigarettes. It happens, I’d say, once a day. You get somebody you just shake your head at,” he said.

That said, hiring experts have some advice for people hunting for jobs in this economy.

Hollis Dempsey, co-owner of Human Resources Plus in Eagle, suggests surfing niche Web sites for ads and picking up volunteer positions for networking purposes.

And don’t give up, adds Boyum.

“I would encourage those looking for jobs to just keep pushing forward,” she said. “Send at least one resume, make at least one phone call each day because if you’re not doing – you won’t get!”

Minturn resident Paul Armstrong, 32, said he hopes his knowledge of the valley will work in his favor. He’s searching for part-time work to supplement his full-time gig at Johnie’s Garden Center in Minturn.

“It’s not how it used to be: ‘Oh, you come in and get a job,'” he said. “They have a lot of qualified applicants. Being up against that doesn’t bother me. Employers are looking for people who know how the valley works.”

Staff writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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