Updated January 22, 2010 at 9:34 p.m.
Routt County unemployment
■ December 2009*
Labor force: 15,395
Unemployment rate: 6 percent
■ November 2009*
Labor force: 14,582
Unemployment rate: 6.6 percent
■ December 2008*
Labor force: 16,977
Unemployment rate: 4 percent
*Not seasonally adjusted
Source: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
Steamboat Springs Unemployment decreased in Routt County from November to December, according to figures released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
Unemployment was 6.6 percent in November and fell to 6 percent in December. Those figures are not adjusted for typical seasonal changes. The numbers also show a larger labor force as ski season got going in December — 15,395 compared with 14,582 in November.
Of those 15,395, 14,466 had jobs and 929 did not. In November, 13,618 people had jobs and 964 did not.
In December 2008, Routt County’s unemployment rate was 4 percent with a labor force of 16,977 people, 672 of whom did not have jobs.
Statewide, unemployment rose from 6.9 percent in November to 7.3 percent in December. The seasonally adjusted unemployment number for Colorado was even higher: 7.5 percent.
Matt McLeod, an employment specialist at the Steamboat Springs branch of the Colorado Workforce Center, said Routt’s employment typically increases in December because of hirings for ski season. But the statewide figures were unexpected, McLeod said.
“We were all surprised that Colorado in general went up because usually Colorado, being such a resort, holiday-oriented state, seeing that go up in the month of December was kind of strange,” he said.
The Workforce Center has 12 to 13 available jobs on its list right now, McLeod said, which is typical for this winter. He said employment specialists have seen a steady stream of people looking for work since November.
They’re also seeing higher-quality listings, McLeod said.
“We’re seeing a little bit better jobs coming through — higher-paying, longer-term, higher qualifications necessary,” he said.
The center has seen a decrease in the number of people seeking help to get unemployment benefits. That’s fallen from roughly 10 a day to more like five per day, McLeod said.
“That usually means people are finding work,” he said.
In a news release, Donald Mares, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, attributed the statewide increase in unemployment to expected “weakness in retail trade” as well as “a particularly severe cold snap.”
According to the release, the unemployment rate went up in 55 of Colorado’s 64 counties in December.
“The lowest rate was 2.8 percent in Cheyenne County, and the highest was 17 percent in Dolores County,” the release states. “In December 2008, the unemployment rate increased in 46 counties, declined in 15 and was unchanged in three. Last year, the lowest rate was 2.3 percent in Yuma County, and the highest was 10.3 percent in Dolores County.”
The release noted that employment increased by 10,800 in leisure and hospitality, primarily because of winter recreation activities. Nationally, the release states, the unemployment rate remained unchanged in December at 10 percent.