Unemployment rate jumps slightly | VailDaily.com

Unemployment rate jumps slightly

The local unemployment rate jumped a half percent to 9.0 percent in April, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

That’s up from 8.5 percent in March, but down from 10.4 percent a year ago.

That accounts for seasonal fluctuations like the ski mountain and schools both closing, said Craig Akers, an economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Those both push people into the job market.

They take those regular seasonal occurrences, the ones you can mathematically account for, like school years and seasonal industries, and adjust the unemployment rate to reflect them.

In this region, the Edwards Micropolitan Statistical Area that includes Eagle and Lake counties, the local labor is actually growing, the labor department said.

Eagle County had 29,930 workers in April 2010, and 30,030 last month.

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The total number of unemployed dropped from 3,048 in April 2010 to 2,914 last month. That pushed Eagle County’s unemployment rate down from 10.2 percent to 9.0 percent year-over-year.

Lake County’s unemployment rate dropped from 12.3 percent to 11.2 percent over the same period.

The local labor market includes Lake county because Lake County is a bedroom community for both Summit and Eagle counties, meaning many workers live in Lake County and commute to Eagle and Summit counties.

Unemployment stats

For the past three Aprils, Eagle County’s unemployment has jumped.

“The good news it’s getting smaller, the bad news is that it’s still going up,” Akers said.

This year’s April unemployment could be lower because ski resorts were open longer.

“The reference week was the week of April 12 and Vail and Beaver Creek were still open this year. Last year they weren’t,” Akers said. “We might be in line for another big bump in May.”

Vail and Beaver Creek closing means some restaurants and other businesses that depend on winter tourism also close. Those seasonal workers tend to flow from winter jobs in the ski resorts to summer jobs like landscaping or construction, Akers said.

The weather isn’t helping, Akers said. And neither is the economy.

“The weather has been so darned bad that they cannot start projects outside,” Akers said.

And there aren’t too many construction jobs, either.

Building permit numbers have plunged in the last five years, from 193 in 2007 to just three through the first four months of this year, Akers said.

“The death of construction activity means there are not construction related jobs to rotate into,” Akers said.

Statewide, unemployment dropped four-tenths of a percent to 8.8 percent, bucking the national average. The nationwide unemployment rate increased from 8.8 to 9.0 percent over the same period.

State labor department officials are cautiously optimistic.

“The increase in payroll jobs and decrease in the unemployment rate is encouraging news,” said Ellen Golombek, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “We would like to see these trends continue for several months before reading too much into the numbers.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.