Summit County’s November unemployment rate dips as struggling workforce moves away
Summit County’s unemployment rate continues to hover above the statewide rate.
According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Unemployment, Summit County’s November unemployment rate was 6.8% while Colorado’s was 6.2%. However, Summit County’s unemployment rate continued to decline from 7.9% in October despite the county’s move to level red coronavirus restrictions in November.
Statewide, jobs are diminishing as nonfarm payroll jobs in Colorado declined by 6,900 from October to November. Payroll jobs in the private sector decreased by 5,900 while government jobs decreased by 1,000 in Colorado. The last time nonfarm payroll jobs decreased was in April, during the original COVID-19 shutdown, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Labor.
Neighboring resort communities are experiencing some of the highest unemployment rates in the state, at 10.2% in Pitkin County and 7.8% in Eagle County for November.
Family & Intercultural Resource Center Executive Director Brianne Snow said there are several factors that are playing into people’s current employment situations and the county’s unemployment rate, including reduced hours, ineligibility for unemployment and an exodus of the workforce.
“What we’re hearing from our clients is that they’re still on really reduced hours,” Snow said. “With us moving into level red (in November) a lot of them were already at reduced hours, but they were hoping that it would take a turn knowing that typically in our holiday season we have the most ability to make some of that money.
“So I think a lot of people were waiting in October, hoping that it would turn come Thanksgiving. And when it didn’t, and when it wasn’t looking like it would, people started to apply for unemployment again.”
However, Snow explained that a lot of people found that they were not eligible for unemployment benefits, mainly due to an individual’s employment benefits being used up during the spring shutdown. Snow said the center is seeing some people going through the process of filing for unemployment, but a “huge amount” of people are throwing up their hands, saying the uncertainty around finances has gotten to be too much and that they have decided to leave the community.
“I’d like to see if this five-star program and us moving into orange helps, but certainly when (restaurants) were just takeout and there was no in-person dining, that was huge for the restaurant staff as they were the ones calling us,” Snow said about requests for financial aid. … “I think people are definitely wondering how they’re ever going to catch up.”
As the vaccine distribution plans come into clearer focus, Snow said people are becoming more aware that the pandemic will likely drag on for months to come. With a vaccine that isn’t expected to reach the general public until summer, people are understanding that physical distancing and mask-wearing will continue, she said.
The total workforce has decreased by about 23% from June to October, according to an economic impact survey conducted by the Summit Chamber of Commerce and the Summit Prosperity Initiative.
Snow said leaving the county has become a viable option for people to get out of the financial crisis in which they are finding themselves. She said people who made it through the first shutdown and started doing better this summer are now recognizing that they’re still behind on their finances as a result of the challenges this winter.
Many leases were up in October and November, Snow said, and people decided not to renew. As the housing market continues to be saturated by remote workers, local workers that chose not to renew their leases didn’t find other housing or decided to move to places with lower housing costs or move in with family.
“A lot of the people we’re talking to have family members who are struggling, and they think, ’Why not join forces to try and make this work better?’” Snow said. “So a lot of creative solutions going on, but it’s not necessarily beneficial to our workforce.”
Amy Priegel, executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority, said there are a lot of people looking for rental units right now, including people who are moving into Summit County. Priegel said many people moving to Summit are working remotely and hoping to live in the area while their job location is flexible. But they aren’t buying homes because they don’t know how long they will be working remotely.
“On the ownership side, one interesting thing that we saw this year is that real estate, even in the deed-restricted sphere, never really slowed down at the end of the year,” Priegel said. “… We did still see deed-restricted units listed for sale and going under contract during the holidays this year.”
However, Priegel said a concerning statistic is that only 20% of overall buyers were local residents in November. That compares to 33% of buyers being locals in November 2019.
The nonprofit resource center is continuing to provide rent relief to individuals. Snow said it’s a priority to make it more realistic for people to stay and to decrease some of the stress people are experiencing. She noted that there are ripple effects when someone chooses to move away, such as roommates who then have to pay higher portions of rent. Snow also mentioned landlords, many of whom bought rental homes as a source of income and are struggling to pay their mortgages if their tenants are unable to pay rent.
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