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Summit County unemployment rises

BOB BERWYN
summit daily news

FRISCO – Although the local branch of the state workforce office has more job openings posted now than in recent months, the picture is still grim compared to previous years, staffers at the Frisco office said Monday.

A number of jobs posted at the workforce center were for seasonal recreation-related work at Copper Mountain and Keystone. Local towns have also staffed up for what looks to be a busy season of special events.

Overall, the latest available figures show the county’s unemployment rate at 9.2 percent in May, up from 5.9 percent in April, and from 5.2 percent in May 2008.

That puts the county’s unemployment almost 2 percent higher than the statewide seasonally adjusted rate of 7.6 percent. The current national unemployment rate is 9.4 percent.

According to the Colorado Department of Labor, May is generally a month of rising unemployment in most Colorado labor areas due to a lull in tourist activity and the entry of seasonal jobseekers. This year was no exception, as 35 of Colorado’s 64 counties recorded higher unemployment rates on an unadjusted basis. Five were unchanged, and 24 had lower rates. Cheyenne County saw the lowest rate in the state at 3.2 percent while Dolores County topped all areas at 14.9 percent.

Figures from the Colorado Department of Labor show a total workforce of 14,116, with a total of 1,301 unemployed in May. In May 2008, the number of unemployed stood at 772.

At the Frisco Workforce Center, specialist Kent Abernathy said the staff has been seeing job-seekers come in waves. Although the center hasn’t upped its staffing, more automation has helped keep pace with the increase in applications.

Most noticeable is that the center has seen a significant jump in the number of skilled workers looking for jobs, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other specialized trades.

Abernathy said if there is a bright spot, it’s that the labor department is focusing on the emerging green economy. One section of the jobs wall at the office is reserved for flyers with information on upcoming training sessions for jobs related to alternative energy and to retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient.

Abernathy said there are opportunities for people in building-related trades to gear up for new jobs that might develop as the state makes a focused effort to structurally address the shift to a sustainable energy economy.

Those efforts come in the face of a wider debate over green jobs. Recent reports in the national media have examined whether the renewable energy field really does create jobs, or whether there is a net reduction. Some of the questions arose after a series of reports were publicized in Europe showing no great gain in employment in the sector.


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