Unemployment up; construction slowdown likely culprit | SummitDaily.com

Unemployment up; construction slowdown likely culprit

Jane Reuter

Unemployment rates

Summit County Colorado

May, 2002 5.7% 5.2%

June, 2002 4.1% 5%

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County’s unemployment rate is higher than it’s been in several years. Travis Bennett, a labor and employment specialist with Frisco’s Colorado Workforce, believes a construction slowdown is giving rise to those figures.

In June, 4.1 percent of Summit County’s residents were jobless, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which gathers the information. In May, it was even higher, 5.7 percent, surpassing the state average for the first time in five years.

Statewide, the jobless rate stood at 5.2 percent in May, declining to 5 percent in June for the fourth consecutive monthly decline.

From where Bennett sits, the news comes as a surprise.

“The anecdotal evidence would be that things are better than last year,” he said. “We’ve had more job orders on the board. Traffic is up slightly.”

But he said he’s also well aware of the slower pace of local construction.

“Construction, while it’s better than last year, is still way off from three years ago when we were breaking records,” Bennett said. “That’s where we’re taking a fairly big hit, and that’s what is probably driving some of those unemployment numbers. If you’re used to bending nails all summer, it’s been weak the past two years.”

Those in the construction business agree they’ve seen an easing in their industry’s once-frenetic pace. TCD Vice President Keith Pitts said his company has been forced to lay off “a few people.”

“Generally, we’ve experienced a slowdown,” he said. “The economy has taken a downturn. We’ve seen a slowdown in the project development stage, and it’s starting to trickle down to the construction itself.”

The construction decline was overdue, Bennett said, and it shouldn’t be cause for too much worry.

“The economy is always cyclical,” he said. “From the construction/real estate side of things, we were riding a boom that started in late ’87 and had never turned down. Normally, that’s about a 7-year cycle, so we actually rode a double cycle without a downturn.

“It will come back. We were going to be built out eventually anyway, and the fact we had a slowdown now was earlier than people expected. I think it will be built back up, but eventually, that’s not going to be the sector of our economy that drives us. The tourism industry and retail will be.”

TCD’s Pitts said he already sees signs that the construction industry “is picking up a bit.”

“The stock market is still plummeting and it’s all kind of tied together,” he admitted. “But hopefully projects that have been delayed or shelved will pick back up in the next six months so we’re looking at an improvement next year.”

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com

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