Routt unemployment tops 10 percent in May |

Routt unemployment tops 10 percent in May

Routt’s figure for May is 1.1 percent higher than April, highest since 1992

Blythe Terrell

— Routt County's unemployment rate hit double digits in May for the first time in recent history, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Routt County's unemploy­ment rate hit double digits in May for the first time in recent history, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Routt's jobless rate was 10.4 percent in May, up from 9.3 percent in April, according to figures released Friday. That's the highest it has been since May 1992, when it was 12.7 percent, according to the labor agency. Routt's unemployment was 10.2 percent in May 1993.

"It's probably what we expected because the labor market is kind of weak right now," said Brian Bradbury, an employment specialist with the Steamboat Springs branch of the Color­ado Workforce Center. "One thing we have lost since 2007, we've lost 3,000 to 4,000 in the labor force, so people definitely seem to be leaving Routt County at the moment."

The county's labor force appears to have peaked in Jan­­uary 2008, when it was 17,078, according to state data dating to 1990. Routt's May numbers show a labor force of 13,453 people. Of those, 12,050 had jobs and 1,403 did not. The labor force decreased by more than 1,000 from April, when it was 14,616.

The numbers for May are not adjusted for typical seasonal changes in employment.

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Unemployment in Routt was at 9.2 percent in May 2009. That month, 14,075 people were in the labor force, and 12,779 of them had jobs. The most recent numbers reflect a year-over-year decrease in jobs of 729.

'Economic stress'

Scott Ford, director of the Routt County Economic Dev­elopment Cooperative, said Routt's jobless rate is influenced by its small population.

"Small changes can move it one way or the other fairly quickly," he said.

Also, he said, the federal government has extended unemployment benefits several times, which means some people are holding out longer before accepting a less desirable job or a position outside their field.

Ford compiles economic data for an Employment Economic Stress Indicator for Yampa Valley Partners. That indicator is meant to put the unemployment situation in perspective by measuring the stress it puts on the economy.

To find the number, Ford looks at the percentage change in the number of jobs and the percentage change in the work force throughout a year. If there are more people in the work force than jobs available, that is likely to create stress.

According to the indicator, economic stress because of unemployment probably peaked in May and June 2009. It is still a negative number for May 2010, however, suggesting that unemployment still is creating stress in the economy.

"It is not what I'd call a bright, shining spot, but it is slowly improving," Ford said.

The whys

May typically is the worst month for unemployment in Routt County, according to figures from the state.

Chris Akers, an economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, offered observations about the possible causes of Routt's high rate. Two well-documented reasons are the dramatic decrease in construction and the April closure of Steamboat Ski Area.

Akers also noted the weather as a possible cause.

"The second thing that likely contributed to the higher rate this May was the unseasonably cool and wet spring that most of the state, including Routt County, experienced," Akers wrote. "While this was good for the snowpack, it delayed the opening of many golf courses and other spring and summer outdoor recreation employers that absorb some of the people who are laid off from the ski resort. These jobs will still be there, but Routt County won't see their full impact until June."

He noted that June brings the end of mud season. When the May unemployment rate was higher than 10 percent in Routt County in the 1990s, it fell between 2.5 and 5.9 percent from May to June, Akers wrote.

But Bradbury, of the local workforce center, said he still was seeing little demand for workers this month.

"The unemployment demand has not decreased, so as the summer goes through, we may see higher rates, if the labor market doesn't get stronger," Bradbury said.

He noted that out of Colo­rado's 64 counties, 10 had May unemployment rates higher than 10 percent. Those included Eagle, Pitkin and San Juan counties — home to other resort communities.

Statewide perspective 

Routt's unemployment rate was higher than the statewide rate of 8 percent. That number has been seasonally adjusted and is down from 8.2 percent a year ago.

"While Census hiring is providing a brief boost in Colorado jobs and our unemployment rate is lower than this time last year, the labor market remains weak," Donald Mares, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said in a news release.

According to the release, the unemployment rate decreased in 51 of Colorado's 64 counties, increased in eight and remained unchanged in five. Those statistics reflect unemployment numbers that have not been seasonally adjusted.

The lowest rate was 3.1 percent in Cheyenne County, and the highest rate was 16.1 percent in Dolores County.

The national unemployment rate decreased to 9.7 percent "due to a decline in labor force participation," according to the release.

Unemployment in Routt County


May: 10.4 percent

April: 9.3 percent

March: 7.7 percent

February: 7 percent

January: 6.8 percent


December: 6.2 percent

November: 7.1 percent

October: 6.9 percent

September: 6.5 percent

August: 6.5 percent

July: 7.2 percent

June: 8.3 percent

May: 9.2 percent

April: 7.9 percent

March: 6.2 percent

February: 5.7 percent

January: 5.2 percent

*Numbers differ from previously reported figures because they reflect revised inputs, re-estimation and new statewide controls

Source: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

What readers say

What I think is the most important economic indicator is number of jobs. Size of work force and number of unemployed are not good indicators because they are too easily affected by arrivals of people looking for work and departures of people that cannot find work.

And number of jobs is down 6% from last year, which is pretty grim because last year already had as close to zero construction activity as possible. Not sure where 700+ jobs went from last May to this year. The 12,050 jobs for May in Routt County is comparable to May 2003. May 2007 had nearly 14,200 jobs. That is a 15% decline, which is a severe recession.

And with everything built between 2003 and now, I’d think there would be more jobs related to maintaining property and more shops to staff, so presumably the business environment is really tough.

— Scott_Wedel

For more

To get help filing unemployment benefits or finding a job, visit the Steamboat Springs branch of the Colorado Workforce Center, 425 Anglers Drive. Call 970-879-3075.