Tough times for Aspen workers at Labor Day

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jobs in the news paper
Getty Images/Hemera | Hemera

ASPEN – One thing is certain on this Labor Day – there are fewer laborers and businesses in Pitkin County than there used to be. And it comes as no surprise that wages are dropping as well.

There were 213 fewer workers in retail shops in the fourth quarter of 2009 than there were a year earlier in Pitkin County, according to the latest report by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The number of retail shops dropped by 14.

The labor department tracks how many wage earners are on the rolls of businesses, based on payroll taxes. Tihe data lags behind by about three quarters of a year. In addition, it doesn’t reflect self-employed workers or those paid on commission rather than salary or hourly wage. Nervous, the reports provide a good snapshot of employment at a given time.

The number of construction workers employed by businesses with a Pitkin County address fell from 1,292 in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 1,008 at the end of last year, the report showed. That’s a loss of 284 jobs.

That figure doesn’t include losses of construction workers who are employed by firms elsewhere in the Roaring Fork Valley but worker primarily in the Aspen-area.

The number of construction firms in Pitkin County fell from 256 to 231 by the end of 2009.

Tourist accommodations and restaurants have held their own in Pitkin County during the recession, at least in terms of people employed. There were 3,280 workers employed by 163 establishments in the fourth quarter of 2008, the labor department said. There were 159 firms employing 3,246 people at the end of 2009.

Arts, entertainment and recreation firms took more of a beating. The number of businesses in those categories grew in 2009, but the number of workers dropped. There were 1,707 workers in those fields in the fourth quarter of 2008 and 1,574 at the end of last year.

Professional and technical services, a category that includes architectural firms and engineers, lost 187 positions from the fourth quarter of 2008 to 2009.

Overall, the average annual employment in Pitkin County dropped from 17,283 at the end of 2008 to 15,548 at the end of 2009. The averages eliminate seasonal fluctuations. That’s a loss of 1,735 jobs or 10 percent of the work force.

The average weekly pay for workers of all types in Pitkin County dropped from $863 in 2008 to $822 in 2009, the labor department’s report showed. That is a loss of about 5 percent.


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