Unemployment rising slowly in Summit County | VailDaily.com

Unemployment rising slowly in Summit County

Bob Berwyn
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” Despite a faltering national economy, unemployment in Summit County, Colorado hasn’t taken a dramatic jump upward in the past few months.

Recent figures from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment show Summit County’s unemployment rate at 4.1 percent for December of 2008. One year ago, the unemployment rate in the county was 3.9 percent in December.

Statewide, the December unemployment rate in December was 5.9 percent. In neighboring Eagle County, the December unemployment rate was 4.3 percent.

According to the state agency’s website, there were 751 unemployed people in Summit County last month, out of a total workforce of 17,619.

Overall, the unemployment has increased in the past year, even with month-to-month variations in seasonal employment. For example, from the summer of 2007 through the spring of 2008, the unemployment rate hovered at 3 percent or below.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

In May 2008, that figure spiked up to 5.2 percent, as the local ski areas closed down for the season. As the recent recession picked up steam, unemployment figures stayed at those relatively higher levels through the summer of 2008, at 4.5 percent in June and 4.0 percent in July.

Along with spikes in seasonal unemployment, the numbers are going up across the board.

“We’re seeing an increase in other sectors,” said Kent Abernathy, a labor specialist at the Colorado Workforce Center in Frisco.

Abernathy said he’s seen an increase in the number of job seekers in various financial and real estate-related fields, including mortgage writers, loan officers and land-title writers.

The slump in the energy business also is evident at the workforce center, although that sector has been hit much harder farther west, in Garfield County, for example.

A similar picture is emerging in the construction industry, he said. In the past, construction workers and tradesmen have been able to move directly from one project to another, but that is no longer true, Abernathy said.

“There’s some suffering going on out there. The bad stories go on and on,” said Dave Koons, past president of the Summit County Builders Association.

He said he gets four or five letters and e-mails each day from job-seekers.

According to Koons, the unemployment numbers reported by the state may not give a completely accurate picture of the situation in Summit County. Some workers in the construction industry have simply left the area because there’s no work.

One big local supplier of building materials just recently laid off 13 workers, Koons said. And while the lodging industry in the county hasn’t been hit as hard as expected, a big condo complex in Vail has cut back on its staff.

Skier visits to Colorado resorts have dipped slightly from last year, and that may be affecting staffing levels at the resorts.

“Our staff levels are slightly down from last year because we were able to plan for our anticipated business levels,” said Copper Mountain Resort spokeswoman Lauren Pelletreau.

“We’re staffed at the same level this year as last year,” said Kelly Ladyga, spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.

“In some areas, our labor has not changed because we have to run our lifts and restaurants. But we do have hourly labor in other areas, like housekeeping, that fluctuates with when our guests come and that hourly labor is down right now,” Ladyga said. “We have all of the labor needed to ensure that our amenities and facilities are open and that we’re providing the same exceptional service to our guests.”

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.

Support Local Journalism