Study: Pitkin County lost 1,804 jobs in first half of ’09 | AspenTimes.com
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Study: Pitkin County lost 1,804 jobs in first half of ’09

ASPEN – The recession gobbled an estimated 55 businesses and 1,804 jobs in Pitkin County by the midpoint of 2009, according to the latest data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The state agency’s report also showed that wage slaves in Aspen and Snowmass Village made about $285 less per month on average in the second quarter of 2009 compared to 2008.

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages provides the first detailed picture of how the recession affected Pitkin County and other areas of Colorado. It takes time for the labor department to compile and report the data, so the second-quarter statistics from 2009 are the latest available.

The number of businesses of all types in Pitkin County dropped to 1,893 in the second quarter of last year from 1,948 for the same period in 2008, the report showed.

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But businesses really cut back on the number of workers as they tried to ride out the recession. The number of workers fell nearly 11 percent from the second quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2009.

There were 16,474 jobs in Pitkin County in 2008 but only 14,670 by June 2009.

The job losses came in Aspen’s major economic sectors: construction, retail, recreation and real estate, the labor department said.

Construction firms based in Pitkin County shed 296 jobs from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Employment fell from 1,298 to 1,002.

Retail sales took a beating in 2009 and so did retail shops. There were 300 fewer jobs by June 2009 as there were a year earlier. Jobs fell from 1,491 to 1,191.

Restaurant and bars had 194 fewer people on the books. They employed 1,724 people in second quarter 2008 and 1,530 in 2009.

Real estate sales and rental firms thinned out support staff as sales plummeted in 2009. There were 153 fewer wage earners in the industry by the mid-point of 2009. Employment fell from 1,329 to 1,176. That doesn’t include defections in real estate agents who were paid by commission rather than by wage.

Even arts, entertainment and recreation firms, which include the Aspen Skiing Co., were forced to cut back a modest amount as discretionary spending and travel dropped in the recession. Firms in that category cut 128 positions.

One exception to the cuts were tourist accommodations, the report showed. Lodges, hotels and condo projects maintained a work force of about 1,750 through both years.

The labor department data showed Aspen-area businesses went through their usual seasonal fluctuations in employment until the fourth quarter of 2008, when fewer winter employees than usual were hired. And there were roughly 1,350 fewer workers in Pitkin County in the first quarter of 2009 as in the first quarter of 2008.

But it was in the spring offseason – when many business owners realized they were fighting for their lives – when the deepest cuts were made.

Average weekly wages also fell victim to the recession. The average weekly wage of workers of all types was $826 the first quarter of 2008. It sagged to $777 the first quarter of 2009. Many businesses, The Aspen Times among them, cut the pay of workers once the magnitude of the recession became apparent.

Average weekly pay fell from $878 in the second quarter of 2008 to $807 in the second quarter of 2009.

Real estate industry support staff took a steep cut from $985 to $814 in average weekly wage.

Retail weekly wages plummeted from $749 to $689.

Restaurant and bar workers took a hit from $407 to $384.

Construction workers that stayed on the job were generally able to hold their pay at historic levels, the study suggested. Average weekly pay for construction workers was $1,100 in 2008 and $1,084 in 2009. Workers at tourist accommodations also maintained their pay, slipping only from $627 to $604.

Pay in the arts, entertainment and recreation field fell from $816 to $724.

Statistics from the last half of 2009 aren’t yet available. All indications are that most businesses tried to limit expenses by hiring fewer workers and that wages haven’t recovered.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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