Demand increases for restaurant, lodging employees in Steamboat

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— The employment picture in Steamboat Springs is gradually improving in some sectors of the economy, and that growth should show itself this summer as employers in the restaurant, lodging and health care industries may have to work a little harder to find the right people.

“We aren’t going back to 2007,” local economic analyst Scott Ford said. “It’s more like we’ve been in a ditch and now we’re gradually moving out of the ditch.”

Ford does much of the research for Yampa Valley Data Partners, which reported this week that an anticipated uptick in demand for hospitality workers is materializing earlier in the summer season than first anticipated. In some instances, there actually might be more job openings than there are candidates.

If there is a ski town job that is in perennial demand regardless of the state of the economy, it is that of an experienced line cook.

So it’s no great surprise that seven well-established Steamboat Springs restaurants had placed employment ads seeking cooks in the Wednesday edition of the Steamboat Today. But the demand for cooks who can put out tempting meals under pressure fits the trend pointed out this week by Yampa Valley Data Partners in its monthly FastFacts report.

In the April FastFacts, Yampa Valley Data Partners was forecasting a strong rebound in employment during the summer months of June through September. The timetable has been moved up.

“Like the local weather, summer has come early. The rebound in employment will mean we will start to see labor shortages specific to the accommodation/food services and health care,” the FastFacts report states.

Steamboat Restaurant Group’s Bridget Boehm is looking for line cooks and food servers. The Steamboat Restaurant Group currently employs between 100 and 110 people at its four restaurants. They will add two to four people at Rex’s American Grill & Bar and one or two at the Laundry, she said.

Some of the openings were created when longtime employees set out on their usual seasonal migration to distant states.

“It’s typical for this time of year,” Boehm said. “A lot of people leave for the summer. Three of our top servers left, but they do that every year.”

Hospitals are restaurants, too, and Yampa Valley Medical Center is seeking a full-time temporary cook among 13 job openings it advertised Wednesday. YVMC employment and compensation specialist Mary Wirta said the hospital’s job openings are typical for the season.

“We do see a little bit of an upswing in the summer months,” Wirta said. “Some people wait to move until the school year is finished up. What we’re seeing right now is very normal.”

YVMC employs 573 people, not all of them full time. And this week’s openings reflect the range of work available at the hospital. There are two openings for registered nurses, one to work full time in the special care nursery and another to work in labor and delivery. There also is an opening for a full-time neonatal nurse practitioner. However, five openings are for skilled health care workers willing to work on a per-diem basis, meaning that they would not work a fixed schedule. Instead, when there is a need for their area of specialty, they would be called to work the required number of hours.

Those openings include positions for a speech therapist, physical therapist, registered dietitian, occupational therapist and certified nurse aide.

Ford said Yampa Valley Data Partners’ prediction of an improving employment picture is based upon the economic stress indicator he uses to gauge the balance between workforce and job openings. That ratio is in perfect balance when it’s at zero, Ford said. When it nudges into the plus side of the scale, it’s a healthy thing for people seeking jobs because there are more of them than there are workers.

“The economic stress indicator due to unemployment is 0.012 in Moffat County and 0.026 in Routt,” Ford reported this week. “Levels above 0.025 indicate that employers are beginning to have trouble finding people to fill available job openings.”

A slight shortage of workers is good for the economy, Ford said, but when the supply of workers is too short it stresses existing employees and their employers.

Brian Bradbury, of the Colorado Workforce Center, said his office in Steamboat has 40 posted job openings.

Duckels Construction, with a concentration in highway, bridge and earth-moving projects, is advertising for five categories of employees, including equipment operators, CDL truck drivers, diesel mechanics, a traffic control supervisor, a lube truck operator and concrete and pipe laborers. They are asking that candidates do not call them, but email resumes to duckels@aol.com.

May unemployment numbers for Routt County are due out in just a few days, Bradbury said, but the latest numbers for April show unemployment here at 7.6 percent compared to 8.9 percent in April 2011. Those figures are based on the 1,040 people who are receiving unemployment benefits among the 13,671 members of the local workforce.

Ford said he thinks his economic stress ratio gives a clearer picture of how local employment is trending than do unemployment numbers because the ratio does not measure the significant number of people on extended unemployment benefits and remaining there.

Comments

Scott Ford 1 year, 10 months ago

For counties such as Moffat and Routt the way the unemployment percentage is calculated is so simple it repels the mind. The calculation recipe is as follows:

Step 1 - Jobs data (full and part time) is gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from information submitted by employers located in the county in conjunction with their quarterly federal unemployment insurance payment. Some adjustments are made by the BLS to recognize historical seasonal trends and an estimate is made based on IRS data for the number of full-time self-employed. This results in an estimate of the number of jobs in the county for a given month.

Step 2 - The number of active unemployment claims in the county for a given month is counted.

Step 3 The number of jobs and active unemployment data are added together to arrive at "Labor Force" In this context Labor Force is not individuals it is simply a unit of measurement.

Step 4 - The unemployment is percentage is calculated by taking the number of active unemployment claims and dividing it by the Labor Force number. For example, the unemployment rate in Routt County for April 2012 was 7.6% April Jobs = 12,631 April Active unemployment claims = 1,040 Labor Force = 13,671 (12,631+1,040) Unemployment percentage = 7.6% (1,040 / 13,671)

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rhys jones 1 year, 10 months ago

Scott -- Your figures are inaccurate. Labor Force = 12,631 + 1,040 + 1 (me). My restaurant cut me back to one shift a week over mud season, which wouldn't cover 3 days' rent. I couldn't find a job -- every one I applied for had 100 applicants. I had to resign that position -- making me uneligible for unemployment. My software was going nowhere fast. So I had to accept a position in Houston, working on sailboats for my cousin, and living on a sailboat in the harbor. Poor me.

Now my software is getting some action (knock on wood) so should that come to fruition, I will not be spreading that money around Seamboat -- sorry Sean, Amanda, Hawkin, and all my other favorite bartenders.

I did not find Steamboat to be entrepreneur-friendly whatsoever. Your numbers lie.

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dave pieknik 1 year, 10 months ago

Regardless of the above stated numbers, I have to disagree with SB not being friendly for new businessess. Since 2009 we have seen several new restaurants, retail establishments, dispensaries, etc, which are thriving off of the communities needs or desires. I am bummed you had to relocate to find work, you are not alone. Good luck to those engaged in the struggle to remain here another year. Good luck with your software, I hope it all works out well for you in the future.

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Scott Ford 1 year, 10 months ago

Hi Rhys - Thanks for sharing your story. It was a good reminder to me that behind every number there is a story. I wish you well in your new ventures in Houston.

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Scott Ford 1 year, 10 months ago

All - What Tom's article referenced only briefly at the end is that the number of active unemployment claims in Routt County have essentially been stuck in the 1,000 range for several months. I recognize that there is an ebb and flow month to month in the number of claims because of new and ending claims; however, I think the bulk of these claims are ones that can best be classified as "extended emergency benefits."

I am not sure why this number is stuck. My more conservative friends sitting around the coffee table would argue that these extended unemployment benefits encourage the jobless to sit on the couch instead of looking for work. I think that perspective is a bit too narrow. I am not too sure how much couch sitting is going on, however, I am aware of human nature and principle of inertia.

I think there is some value with the approach Germany takes in overcoming the inertia issue unemployment benefits and keeps it from getting stuck. In Germany the first four months of unemployment a suitable job is defined as those jobs with the same occupational qualification as in the previous job and pay at least 80% of the previous job.

After four months, the definition of suitable is expanded to include jobs that pay 70% of the previous wage. The same occupation qualification is abandoned. This percentage continues to decline in increments until benefits essentially evaporate. Not accepting a suitable job offer once may lead to a temporary loss of benefit entitlement for 12 weeks. A complete loss is possible if the recipient refuses suitable job offers repeatedly.

I believe that the German approach creates a sense of urgency on the part of the recipient of unemployment benefits. Right now the unemployment benefit amount and the requirement to receive those benefits remain the same until they end abruptly. Metaphorically, in the United States when one's unemployment benefits end they are push off a cliff. In Germany, one is lowered using a rope.

I think this general approach would work. What do you think?

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

It is my opinion that the unemployment rate is a particularly poor indicator of this area's economy because much of the workforce comes and goes depending upon the availability of work. Thus, when things are good then the unemployment rate understates the true tightness of the labor market due to people wishing to collect unemployment for a while. And it understated the weakness of the local economy when things were bad since people left to where there is work.

I think that number employed is a far more relevant indicator of the local economy. The number of reported jobs in a month should be compared to that same month of prior years to get a better understanding of the actual state of the economy.

I am too lazy right now to look up number employed in April of prior years.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

Scott F. I suggest the far more relevant program in Germany is their job sharing with unemployment benefits making up for lost wages due to working fewer hours.

That keeps people in the workforce and allows a company to reduce costs while retaining skilled workers so it can handle a recovery without the expense of hiring and training new employees. I read some article which said that Germany and the US were similar in how total hours worked decreased in both countries, but Germany's unemployment rate went up much less because of job sharing. And that reduced the size of their foreclosure crisis because job sharing allowed people to keep their homes that unemployed would lose. And job sharing increased productivity because a shorter shift is a more focused shift.

The US system of paying people to be unemployed has an underlying assumption that the people who'd rather collect than work are not great workers anyway. So giving them benefits makes it easier for those wanting to work to find work and makes it easier for companies to find good workers.

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