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Unemployment runs high in resorts before mud season

While the spring offseason is typically when unemployment in Colorado’s mountain resorts suddenly spikes, something is different this year: It’s high before the chairlifts even close.

Pitkin County’s unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in February, according to the latest statistics available from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. There was a labor force of 12,161 workers in the county. The report showed 11,401 had jobs and 760 people were out of work.

The unemployment rate has been consistent – and uncharacteristically high – all winter. It was 6.8 percent in December and 6.3 percent in January. Many business owners and managers are being cautious about bringing back workers. They want to make sure the economy is bouncing back before they add to their payrolls. In other cases, like the construction industry, businesses remain mired in the slump.



Prior to the start of the recession in late 2008, Pitkin County’s unemployment rate was typically below 3 percent during busy summer and winter months. In contrast to the 6.2 percent unemployment in February of this year, it was only 2.1 percent in February 2008.

Pitkin County is doing well compared to many other Colorado mountain counties, the labor department’s report showed. Eagle, Garfield, Routt and Summit counties all had higher unemployment rates in February.



In Eagle County, including the mid-Roaring Fork Valley, there were 2,808 people collecting unemployment benefits in February for a rate of 8.8 percent. That was up from February 2010 when there were 2,660 unemployed for a rate of 8.3 percent.

In February 2008, fewer than 1,000 from Eagle County’s labor force of 34,070 were unemployed for a rate of 2.9 percent.

Garfield County’s unemployment picture improved slightly over the last year, but it’s still running in double digits. The county had a labor force of 33,256 in February, with 3,581 unemployed for a rate of 10.8 percent, the state labor department reported. The unemployment rate was 11 percent the prior year.

Pre-recession, Garfield County had an unemployment rate of 3.0 percent in February 2008.

Outside the Roaring Fork Valley, the picture is similar over the last year. Routt County, which includes Steamboat Springs, had an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent in both February 2011 and 2010.

Summit County was worse off in February compared to last year, the labor department’s report showed. It had an unemployment rate of 7.0 percent this February compared to 6.3 percent in February 2010.

Colorado’s overall unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in February.


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