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Pitkin County’s unemployment rate second highest in state

County labor force is down nearly 1,000 workers since November 2019

A woman walks by the now closed Red Onion in downtown Aspen on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020.

Pitkin County had the second highest unemployment rate in Colorado last month, trailing only San Miguel County where Telluride is located.

Pitkin County had 1,054 people unemployed in November or 10.2 percent of its total work force, according to a monthly report by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. That was up from 790 people or 7.5 percent unemployed in October.

Colorado’s overall unemployment rate was 6.4 percent, unchanged from October.



Some of the unemployed workers will lose federal benefits that supplement their unemployment coverage if Congress fails to act. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed in March provides $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits for qualifying workers. It expires Dec. 26.

Congress is debating a new aid package that includes $300 per week in supplemental unemployment payments.



“Certainly all eyes are on the benefits package,” Cher Haavind, deputy executive director and chief communications office at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said at a media briefing Friday.

Even if Congress acts, the federal benefits will likely not be available for the workers who qualify until late January or early February, she said. States needs guidance from the federal labor department and they need to prepare for payment of those benefits.

Colorado’s unemployment data indicated resort areas were especially hard hit in November. Top areas of unemployment included San Miguel County (Telluride) at 11.2 percent and Pitkin County (Aspen) at 10.2 percent in the top spots. Eagle County had the fifth highest unemployment in the state at 7.8 percent.

Garfield County wasn’t hit as hard with unemployment at 5.8 percent. Other resort areas such as Summit County and Grand County were at 6.8 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.

Ryan Gedney, a senior economist with the labor department, said most new claims for unemployment benefits came from areas outside the Front Range metro area. Resort areas like Aspen likely lost jobs in the restaurant industry as operations were forced indoors in November because of cold weather. Restaurants have capacity limits for indoor seating because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pitkin County’s rise in unemployment was beyond the usual offseason swoon. The unemployment rate was 5.2 percent last November, with 572 people out of work in the offseason.

Roaring Fork Valley unemployment

Pitkin County 10.2%

Eagle County 7.8%

Garfield County 5.8&

Rates are for November. Source: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

The snapshots of November in 2019 and 2020 show that Pitkin County shed nearly 1,000 jobs in the year of the pandemic. There were 10,361 people in the labor force this November, down from 11,284 last year for the month.

The shrinkage was even more drastic in Eagle County where the labor force fell to 31,028 this November from 35,923 last November, a decrease of 4,895 or 15.8 percent.

Colorado lost 128,200 nonfarm payroll jobs between November 2019 and this year, according to the labor department. The biggest loss was in leisure and hospitality at about 56,900 jobs.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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