VAIL VALLEY - May unemployment in the county was up more than two percentage points compared to April and almost double that of May 2008."It's been a slow moving mudslide that finally caught up with us," said Don Cohen, executive director of the economic council of Eagle County. Eagle County's unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in May, according to numbers released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor an Unemployment. Unemployment was at 7.2 percent in April and 4.5 percent in May of 2008.Cohen wasn't surprised by the statistics and said the lack of summer construction jobs is likely one of the biggest contributors. "I think it sort of plays into this sense that we're sort of the last one to feel the recession," Cohen said. "The expectation, on the upside, is that we'd be one of the first to feel the improvement."The state unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in May, up only one tenth of a percent from April, according to the labor department numbers. Colorado's unemployment rate in May of 2008 was 4.5 percent, the same as Eagle County.Cohen expects unemployment to be down a bit by fall."I think in today's economy every trend is magnified," Cohen said. "The bad is worse and the slight improvements look like a victory."Rob LeVine, general manager of the Antlers at Vail, wasn't surprised by the numbers, either. "Those numbers kind of jive with our experience here at the Antlers," LeVine said. "We haven't laid off anybody recently, but we haven't done any hiring either. My general sense is that things have bottomed out."LeVine expects to be hiring more people before laying people off. But that could still take a while, he said. Right now, he's not doing either.The U.S. unemployment rate jumped in May, too. The number rose from 8.9 percent in April to 9.4 percent in May. Steve Rosenthal, co-owner of Colorado Footwear, has noticed people scrutinizing their spending more closely."As that number continues to grow, people are cutting back," Rosenthal said. "We get people in here every day saying 'If I buy that my husband will kill me.'"A lot of local businesses are tightening their belts, but Rich tenBraak, executive director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, hasn't heard of a lot of recent layoffs."I think it's a sign of the times that it's hitting here in the Vail Valley," he said. President and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, Michael Kurz, thinks the worst of the recession has already hit the valley. "Obviously when ski season goes away there's a lot of people that lose their jobs," Kurz said. "But since about two months ago we haven't heard of any layoffs." Kurz is hoping summer business will ramp up as Fourth of July weekend nears. Chris Outcalt can be reached at (970) 748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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