Routt unemployment hits 7 percent in February |

Routt unemployment hits 7 percent in February

Jobless figure was 7.7 percent statewide for the month

Blythe Terrell

— Unemployment increased 0.2 percentage points in Routt County from January to Feb­ruary, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Unemployment rose from 6.8 percent in January to 7 percent in February. That represents 1,069 people without jobs in January and 1,109 in February, a 40 person increase. Routt's labor force also grew, from 15,659 in January to 15,844 in February, or 185 people.

Those figures are not adjusted for typical seasonal changes in the jobs arena.

In February 2009, the labor force was 16,395 people. Of those, 15,465 of them had jobs, and 930 did not. The unemployment rate was 5.7 percent.

If last year's numbers are an indication, however, Routt County workers could be in for a challenging mud season. The unemployment rate was 6 percent in March 2009 and then jumped to 7.6 percent in April — higher than the state rate at the time.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said she hadn't heard much about businesses laying off employees as mud season approaches.

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"With the construction, people are concerned, but I think most of the businesses have already pared down as much as they can go," Barnett said. "There may be some restaurants that encourage people to take vacations at that time … or something like that, but I think people were running pretty lean all winter."

Routt County's jobless rate for last year peaked in May, at 8.7 percent. The mud season work force had shrunk to 13,724. Numbers improved slightly in the summer, with the rate dropping to 7.7 percent in June, 6.9 percent in July and 6 percent in August.

In Moffat County, unemployment increased from 8.7 percent in January to 9.1 percent in February. Of the county's 8,951-person labor force, 811 were unemployed in February.

Statewide, unemployment in­­creased from 7.4 percent in Jan­uary to 7.7 percent in February, according to the Department of Labor and Employment figures. Those numbers are adjusted for seasonal changes. The national rate in February was 9.7 percent.

"Moderate fluctuations in the labor market are expected through the first part of the year as we put 2009 behind us," Donald Mares, executive director of the state department, said in a news release.

According to the Labor De­­partment news release:

"The unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) increased in 30 of Colorado's 64 counties, declined in 22 and remained unchanged in 12. The lowest rate was 3.4 percent in Cheyenne County and the highest was 18.7 percent in Dolores County. In February 2009, the unemployment rate increased in 60 counties, declined in two and was unchanged in two. Last year, the lowest rate was 3.4 percent in Cheyenne County and the highest was 13.3 percent in Dolores County."

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