Routt unemployment rate drops slightly in March

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Contact the Colorado Workforce Center for information about jobs and unemployment benefits. Call 970-879-3075, visit www.yourworkforcecenter.com or visit the center’s Steamboat Springs branch at 425 Anglers Drive. Unemployment information and resources also are available at www.colorado.gov/cdle.

— Routt County’s unemployment rate decreased to 8.3 percent in March, showing a slight improvement from February and mirroring state and national trends.

Data released Tuesday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment states that 1,262 people were out of work in Routt County last month, compared with 1,293 people in February and 1,322 people in January.

The data was not adjusted for typical seasonal changes.

Routt County’s total labor force was larger in winter, for example, but March’s unemployment rate of 8.3 percent still represented an improvement from February’s 8.4 percent and January’s 8.6 percent rates.

The March data suggests the local job market improved during the past year, as well. The county’s jobless rate was 9.3 percent in March 2010.

Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said that despite the recent improvements, unemployment rates could worsen in April and May — traditionally tough months for a local job market mired in mud season.

“It really depends on construction, whether we get people back to work again,” she said.

There could be reason for optimism on that front.

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord, speaking Tuesday during a Steamboat Springs Rotary Club lunch at The Steamboat Grand, noted several large construction projects planned in the area in coming months or, in some cases, the next year or so.

Potential projects — in various stages of planning and development — include Colorado Mountain College’s new administrative, classroom and dining facility, with associated roadwork on the new Crawford Spur, near Bob Adams Drive; a new Walgreen’s store, at U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road; the Casey’s Pond Senior Living project, off Walton Creek Road; redevelopment work at the base of Steamboat Ski Area; and city water and sewer repairs downtown.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of (construction) opportunity that we haven’t seen in the past three or four years,” DuBord said.

Colorado saw its biggest declines in unemployment last month in the construction and business service industries.

Colorado’s unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in March, compared with 9.3 percent in February and 9.7 percent in March 2010.

Colorado’s “labor force increased 8,700 to 2,686,400, and total employment increased (by) 10,100,” state labor and employment spokesman Joseph Winter said in a news release. “The increase in total employment was greater than the increase in labor force participation, causing the number of unemployed to decline by 1,500.”

National unemployment rates also decreased by one-tenth of a percent in March. Nat­­ional unemployment drop­ped to 8.8 percent last month, compared with 8.9 percent in February and 9 percent in January.

Brian Bradbury, employment specialist at the Steamboat Springs branch of the Colorado Workforce Center, said his office continues to see significant traffic.

“We’re still seeing the heavy influx of questions on unemployment, and new claims, which has been going on for an extended period of time,” Bradbury said Tuesday.

The Steamboat branch of the Colorado Workforce Center, in the Sundance at Fish Creek shopping center on Anglers Drive, offers job seekers a hotline to state employment officials every Wednesday on a first-come, first-served basis.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

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