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Unemployed? Don’t lose hope

JULIE SUTOR
summit daily news
In this May 3, 2010 photo, several hundred people stand in line at the National Career Fair in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as they tried to find a job. New claims for unemployment benefits dipped for the fourth straight week, a sign the job market is improving at a glacial pace.(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP | AP

SUMMIT COUNTY – As the resort-driven local job market goes through its annual spring lull, employment prospects for job-seekers may seem especially dismal right now. But for the unemployed, there are a few reasons for optimism, and there are resources available to make the experience less painful.

Summit County’s labor force usually shrinks by about 4,000 to 5,000 jobs between March and May each year, according to data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). In the last three years, May has been the month with the smallest labor force of the year, with even fewer jobs than in October, when the job force takes its autumn dip. But in June, the number of local jobs begins to grow again.

The most recent data suggests the contraction Summit County’s workforce could be slowing. In March of this year, 17,660 workers had jobs in Summit County, just barely behind March 2009, when 17,730 people were in the local workforce.

“While results for March are mixed, the Colorado job market continues to stabilize,” said Donald Mares, CDLE executive director.

Nationally, nonfarm payroll employment in April rose by 290,000, the unemployment rate edged up to 9.9 percent, and the labor force increased sharply, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job gains occurred in manufacturing, professional and business services, health care, and leisure and hospitality. Federal government employment also rose, reflecting continued hiring of temporary workers for Census 2010.

That could be good news for Summit County.

“Going into the summer season, our visitor numbers are really going to depend on whether we see a rebound in the national economy,” said Kent Abernethy, labor specialist at the Colorado Workforce Center in Frisco. “But even if the national economy isn’t strong, people will take shorter trips, and that tends to mitigate some of the effects for us. People from the Front Range may decide to come up here for special events and other things rather than taking a longer trip.”

For the unemployed, Abernethy advised looking for work in sectors where job growth is likely, especially when workers can adapt their existing skills to a new setting or complement their skills through a little training. The Workforce Center offers workshops to help job seekers change careers and identify the skills they’ll need to do it.

Abernethy suggests, “learning the shades of green available in an existing career. Electricians can learn to put in a solar photovoltaic system. Civil engineers can learn to set up a smart-grid system.”

The Workforce Center also offers skills assessments, which can help a worker identify which skills will transfer from a weak job sector to a strong one.

“You can see how your skills transfer, where the gaps are and what training you need to make the leap,” Abernethy said.

Some workers who have been laid off may even qualify for financial help with job-training or tuition.

Job seekers can also use the Workforce Center during a job search.

“If you’ve been in the workforce for 15 years, things have really changed dramatically since the last time you looked for a job. It’s much more Internet-based, so you want to access good websites and get registered as a job seeker,” Abernethy said.

Workforce Center staff can also receive help with writing a resume and honing interview skills.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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