Ailing economic times mean 500 fewer jobs in Pitkin County
A new report by the state government shows just how hard the aftershocks of Sept. 11, 2001, hit Aspen’s economy, especially the construction industry.There were nearly 500 fewer people employed by Pitkin County businesses in 2002 compared to 2001. As a result, wages paid and spread through the valley’s economy were down by almost $4 million, according to data released by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.There were 16,096 people employed by Pitkin County businesses in 2001. That number fell 3 percent to 15,614 last year.The state report showed that $558.64 million in total wages was paid by Pitkin County businesses last year. That’s down from $562.48 million the year before.Construction hit hardestThe construction industry was hit harder than any other sector of the local economy. There were 139 fewer workers for construction firms based in Pitkin County last year. That’s a decrease of 9.5 percent.There was an average of 1,437 construction workers in 2001, the report said. That dropped to 1,298 last year.Garfield County’s construction industry, which depends heavily on work in the upper valley, was hit even harder. There were 390 fewer construction jobs last year, a decline of 11 percent, the state report said.The Roaring Fork Valley wasn’t the only place to experience a loss of jobs. The labor department’s annual report on employment figures showed the state lost 47,317 jobs last year. That’s a decline of nearly 2 percent.In Pitkin County, the portions of the economy most dependent on tourism suffered the biggest losses of jobs. Businesses that depend heavily on locals and second-home owners tended to fare better. For example:-Tourist accommodations, which account for the largest share of sales tax revenues, pared 131 positions last year, according to the report. That is a decline of 6 percent.-Retail businesses cut 113 positions, or about 6 percent last year.-Recreation-oriented businesses, which include the Aspen Skiing Co., reduced their number of employees by 73, or 5 percent.Few bright spotsHealth care and social services was the only private sector to add employees during the economic slump of 2002. The number of employees edged up from 329 to 341, according to the state report.The real estate industry held its own. It lost 32 positions, or about 3 percent.Bars and restaurants, which employ almost as many people as hotels and lodges, lost only 43 positions, or 2 percent.Tourist accommodations still reign as the largest employer with 2,040 workers last year. Bars and restaurants were second with 2,005 employees.The public sector remained one of the largest employers and, in fact, added employees in 2002 over 2001.The ranks of state, local and federal governments increased from 1,668 two years ago to 1,684 last year. The number of employees working for local governments increased from 1,566 to 1,588, according to the state report.No statistics are available yet for 2003, but there are signs that the labor market is still weak. The unemployment rate for Pitkin County during June 2003 was 5.9 percent. It was at 4.8 percent for the same month last year.[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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