Layoffs could be coming to locals amid economic downturn |

Layoffs could be coming to locals amid economic downturn

Blythe Terrell

Jackie Mitchell, an employment specialist with Colorado Work Force, recently has been busy as the employment market continues to tighten.

— Some local businesses might pare down their ranks as the economic crisis roils industries nationwide.

Brian Bradbury, an employment specialist at the Steamboat Springs Workforce Center, said he sees the effects. Routt County’s unemployment rate stood at about 3.1 percent in August, up from 2.4 percent the same month in 2007, he said. Colorado’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent for the month, compared with 3.8 percent for August 2007.

“We’re getting a lot more people coming in (from) the construction industry, where some of the projects have been shut down or slowed down,” Bradbury said. “That is definitely a trend we’re seeing. Also, unemployment questions are definitely rising. We spend a lot of time explaining it to people.”

TCD President Rick Brodie said he expected layoffs at his company, but he didn’t know how many people would lose jobs. The construction company has projects lined up through the middle or late part of next year, Brodie said. After that, he’s not sure what will happen.

“It’s about lending,” he said. “It’s about the money available.”

The economy will turn around when banks loosen up and start providing loans again, Brodie said.

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The specter of recession only increases the uncertainty, Brodie said.

“It’s easy to turn the news on and get online and see what’s going on with the Dow,” he said. “None of it’s really encouraging. Historically, since the ’70s, recessions have been eight to 10 months to recovery. : I think there’s more uncertainty with this one than ever before.”

Layoffs are common in the Yampa Valley during this part of the year, Bradbury said.

“But it seems to be more than usual,” he said.

The Steamboat Springs area lags the rest of the nation in economic trends, Brodie said. That means business is OK for now, but that could change. It also means that any recovery will come later for Steamboat than the rest of the country, he said.

Excavating company Rogue Resources has gone from 85 to about 65 employees, though most have left on their own, senior accountant Trent Jones said.

“We kind of got lucky,” Jones said. “I think we were needing to do some layoffs, and we had five guys from the pipe crew that just up and left” for a job in Denver.

The company has had steady projects this year, Jones said.

“We haven’t really experienced any more difficulty getting financing or leasing equipment,” he said. “The rates we’re paying stay pretty constant, even recently, which kind of surprises me.”

Sarah Fox, of Fox Construction, said her company has not had to lay anyone off for a couple of years. She doesn’t expect anyone at Fox to be laid off this year. The company is hiring carpenters and possibly an estimator, she said.

Brodie predicted that many employers eventually would encounter challenges.

“I think it’s yet to be seen, but it will be seen,” he said. “I think that again people are working off an existing backlog. I think the future backlog is going to be the key.”

Rick Smith, an operations manager for Connell Resources in Steamboat, said his company had steady work and had not laid off anyone. But Connell deals mostly in paving, he said, which means it is finishing existing projects now.

The company won’t know what to expect until next year’s plans start coming in, which won’t happen until early 2009, Smith said.

“We’re not a real good barometer” for the economy, he said. “All those projects have already been in the works for a while.”

Connell will do some layoffs for winter because of normal slowdowns, Smith said.

“Our layoff schedule is going to be normal,” he said. “But that has to do with weather, not money.”

Smith said he expected the stock market to rise and become more stable after the Nov. 4 presidential election.

None of the employers professed to know what the future holds, but all are keeping an eye on the economy.

“In the meantime, we can all go skiing, so we’re luckier than most,” Brodie said. “I’d rather be here than anywhere.”