Routt County unemployment increases in April

Jobless rate at 9.2 percent, up from 7.7 percent in March


— The number of unemployed Routt County residents increased by 142 people from March to April, even as the work force dropped by nearly a thousand people.

That represented a rise in the unemployment rate from 7.7 percent in March to 9.2 percent in April, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. In April 2009, the county’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent.

Brian Bradbury, an employment specialist with the Steamboat Springs branch of the Colorado Workforce Center, said this area normally sees an increase in unemployment from March to April because many winter jobs ending and many summer jobs have not begun.

“It’s a little bit higher than I would have expected, but it’s not surprising,” he said Monday.

Statewide, the average unemployment in April was 8 percent, the same as the year before.

The total labor force in Routt County dropped from 15,619 in March to 14,631 in April, and the number of unemployed residents increased from 1,199 to 1,341 during that time.

The unemployment rate dropped in 51 counties and stayed the same in two. Routt was among the 11 counties that experienced an increase.

Labor Department executive Donald J. Mares said the increase in the unemployment rate is from people starting to look for work again.

Colorado “is now seeing thousands of formerly discouraged job seekers who had abandoned their job search renewing their efforts,” Mares said in a news release. “That influx of workers caused the unemployment rate to bump up in April.”

Bradbury said that’s especially true in Routt County because of the many seasonal jobs.

“As you start approaching summertime, people who haven’t been able to find wintertime jobs begin searching again,” he said.

Other tourism-driven counties fared slightly better than Routt. Pitkin County, home to Aspen, had an April unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. Summit County, with Silverthorne and Breckenridge, had 6.1 percent unemployment in April.

Bradbury said the unemployment rate in Routt is within the normal range.

“I think it’s in the typical ballpark,” he said. “I wish it was down much, much lower, and any unemployment is something you want to watch.”


Scott Wedel 3 years, 11 months ago

So it looks like there were 13,290 jobs in Routt County for April 2010. That is 100 more jobs than April 2003 and 400 less than April 2004. That is about 2,000 fewer jobs than April 2007 and 1750 less than April 2008.

The comment from Labor Department executive Donald J. Mares that increase in unemployment was due to more people looking for work applies to statewide numbers, not what the numbers show for Routt County. Our workforce declined by about 1,000 from March to April. A decline by 1,000 in the workforce is not indicative of more people looking for work.

A 9.2% April unemployment rate is within normal range for the period of 1991-1996 and 2009-2010. Normal range for the intervening 12 years was 4% to 6%.

It is hard to see the signs of upturn in these unemployment numbers. While it is not as severe as the drop from 2008 to 2009, being better than an absolute disaster is not exactly inspirational. Construction activity is already about as low as it can be so the continued job loss is presumably in other sectors of the economy.

The argument for optimism is not in the local employment numbers which are lagging indicators (but instructive on the current state of the economy), but that the national economy might be recovering and resort areas tend to recover a year or two after the national economy.

Scott Ford, any comments or did I just give you a day off?


Scott Ford 3 years, 11 months ago

Hi Scott W -

There are a lot of things I do not understand and the list seems to grow longer every day. I know how the employment and the unemployment numbers are determined in Routt County - however I do not know how the labor force number is calculated. I know how labor force is defined I am not sure of the method used to calculate the change in labor force from month to month. Do you know?

March = 15,691 April = 14,631


Scott Wedel 3 years, 11 months ago

Scott F, I found this from the federal bureau of labor.

In summary, the national numbers are from a pool of 60,000 surveyed households of which 25% are surveyed each month.

It has a section on how the local numbers are calculated. It looks like the state along the fed's help develop models for their local regions that includes using the CPS data. For a county of our size, we might not have anyone in the national survey. So presumably they would have a model that uses CPS data from other resort/rural areas and they also feed into the model the reasonably accurate Routt County employed (and maybe unemployed receiving benefits) and get a workforce number.

So it would note drop in number of jobs and combine that with historical patterns along with CPS data for similar regions (which might show if bunches of people are moving from western slope to take jobs in Denver or such).

Obviously, the workforce number is not a highly reliable number.

Number employed is not a perfect number because it does not distinguish between full time jobs and part time jobs. That inaccuracy would make it hard to accurately determine how many households are well employed, but presumably whatever noise results from the inaccuracy would remain about the same, especially over the short term, so the changes (job gained or lost) would be a fairly accurate number regarding the job market.

The statisticians in the Colorado dept of Labor that deal with the workforce model probably live for census years because this is the one year that they get good real data to check the accuracy of their models.


Scott Ford 3 years, 11 months ago

Hi Scott W - Thanks for the information.
To make Routt's unemployment numbers even a wee-bit more fuzzy the number of employed (jobs) is calculated from ES202 data which is based on the monthly unemployment insurance calculation the employer makes based on number of folks on the payroll and total wages paid. Not only are both full and part-time jobs included, but also the employees' place of residence is not taking into consideration in making this calculation. So in Routt's employment numbers are folks from Moffat County and other counties as well.

I have also attempted to figure out a good way to account for the self-employed as well. Many of whom are not technically an employee of the company they own. Does the number of self-employed wash with the number of individuals from Moffat County employed by Routt County employers? Who knows?

In comparing 3rd quarter, (13-week period) data from 2007 to 2009 Routt County has lost 2,225 jobs, however the average weekly wage increased from $732 to $769. I have attributed this 5% increase in weekly wage to a reduction in the number of part-time jobs.

I think the data supports this theory because in the third quarter of 2007 payroll was $147.1 million. In 2009 it had declined 10% to $132.1 million; the loss of $15 million. Dividing $15 million by the 2,225 in lost jobs the average weekly wage per lost job comparing 3rd quarter to 3rd quarter is $518 dollars.

I could benefit from your perspective. What do you think would be a likely cause in the shift of these numbers?


Scott Wedel 3 years, 11 months ago

Scott F. I suspect it is difficult to get an accurate number that shows true economic activity for just about any thing. I think the trend is far more relevant than the actual number. Ie. one could look at the numbers as a snapshot in time, but any conclusions derived from that snapshot about the overall state of the local economy could wildly miss the mark. A far more accurate picture of the economy at a moment in time could be derived from looking at the numbers as a trend and compared to numbers of the previous years. Ie, it is much easier to determine if things are getting better or worse than exactly where we are.

I think the increase you see in weekly wage is because the working class is getting creamed by the job losses while the retired and wealthy are far less affected. Basically, the top remained largely the same while the middle and bottom got smaller and thus the average increased because there were fewer small numbers. From what I see on the ground, it is ridiculous to think that we are seeing part time jobs becoming full time jobs.

Which just goes to show that "average" is so often a largely meaningless number. It would be extremely interesting to look at this in greater detail. Your thesis would be supported by a large loss of the lowest paying jobs that is mitigated by a relative gain slightly above that. My thesis would be supported by by job losses in the lower ranges and no hint of there being more people in full time jobs (that were once part time jobs).

I think what really happened is that wealthiest probably did better in 2009 than 2008 so income lost for the rest was more than $518. $518 for a weekly wage is well above minimum wage. From what I see (vast numbers of vacant rental housing, etc) I think the job losses are mainly spread across full and part time people making less than $20 an hour. That is the pay range for the service economy and even many of the employed (as compared to the self employed) in the construction business.

I just do not see anything to support that the job loss number should be considered mitigated by people switching from part time jobs to full time jobs.


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