Summit County unemployment far below state, national rates
As much fanfare as the state and national employment picture has received for low unemployment rates in 2018, Summit County stands above both of them.
By most measures, 2018 was a banner year for Colorado workers.As the state posted one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, employee wages grew by nearly 5 percent and over 75,000 jobs were added in state.
“Job growth was very strong in 2018,” said Ryan Gedney, a senior economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
He said the high number of new jobs in 2018 actually came on at an accelerated rate compared to 2017 and that was true across the U.S. as well.
Quite amazingly, he said, Colorado added jobs at the seventh fastest rate in the U.S. in 2018 despite being locked in a tight labor market as people moving into the state or deciding to re-enter the workforce helped fuel Colorado’s job growth last year.
Throughout 2018, the state’s jobless rate hovered around 3 percent before a late spike in people re-entering the workforce drove the rate up to 3.8 percent — or 3.5 percent seasonally adjusted — for December.Meanwhile, Summit County’s unemployment rate was just 2.2 percent for the month, well below the state’s rate and 1.5 percent better than the national unemployment rate of 3.7 percent — or 3.9 percent, seasonally adjusted.
Tracking the numbers, Summit’s unemployment rate was just 2.2 percent in September before rising to 2.5 percent in October, falling one-tenth of a percent in November and coming back down to 2.2 percent for December.
The lowest unemployment got last year in Summit County was in March and April, which both came in at 1.5 percent, only two-tenths of a percent above the county’s all-time low of 1.3 percent recorded in December 1996.
Looking at the figures over the last decade, Summit County’s unemployment rate went up and down until the recession took its toll and joblessness shot up above 8 percent in 2009. Following the end of the recession, however, the county’s unemployment rate has steadily come back down to levels near the all-time low during the rapid economic expansion of the 1990s.
With a jobless rate hovering around the 2 percent mark, the demand for workers in Summit County remains “high,” according to the Colorado Department of Employment and Labor, which reports that there were 1,263 job openings advertised online on Wednesday in the county.
The number of openings in Summit County was well above the surrounding mountainous counties with the exception of Eagle County, which had 1,284 open jobs posted online on Wednesday, according to the state agency.
Nearby ski resorts accounted for the largest number of open positions in Summit County. Vail Resorts had 408 openings followed by Copper Mountain Resort, which posted 63 of them.
Low unemployment is typically good news for workers, but many local business owners and managers have been feeling the weight of the county’s tight labor market, exemplified by the vast number of “help wanted” signs hanging in business windows across the county.
Some of these owners have said the market is hindering new business openings and planned expansions, while also creating a situation in which many of them are struggling to stay fully staffed as is.
However, that crunch is nothing new as the county’s unemployment has hovered around 2 percent for the last three years.
Food preparation and servers, retail salespersons, clerks and cashiers, maids and housekeepers made up the fastest growing occupations in Summit County, according to the state agency.
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