Demand increases for restaurant, lodging employees in Steamboat |

Demand increases for restaurant, lodging employees in Steamboat

— 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.

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"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

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.

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