March unemployment claims quadruple last year’s |

March unemployment claims quadruple last year’s


About 250 people applied for a bar-tending position at the new restaurant Molly Blooms at Kimball Junction, according to Joe Oswald, marketing director and talent manager.

It’s not hard to understand why. Companies and organizations have been making staff reductions since last November and the end of the ski season means hundreds more will follow.

According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services spokesman Curt Steward, unemployment claims made in Summit County in the first quarter of 2009 were more than triple what they were one year ago.

March numbers were four times higher than the year before and one-third higher than the month before.

December had the most claims. February 2009 had the lowest since October, but jumped up again the next month. Over the last six months, claims have been averaging at 191.

Besides Molly Blooms, many other businesses are receiving more applications than normal. It’s not comparable to when all the international workers showed up in November, many say, but employers are presented with excellent hiring options this spring.

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Brianna Morley at ABC Great Beginnings has an opening for a child care worker. She received 75 applications many from ski resort employees freshly out of work.

Toby Tolpinrud at PMA, a property management company, is hiring a carpenter. She’s seen five or six times the number of applications this year than last. Many are people who were self-employed or worked on large building projects last year. Construction work is scarce this year.

"Were getting very qualified carpenters applying," she said.

Treven Grant with the developers Mountains West Ranches is hiring a sales and marketing assistant. He doesn’t believe they’re receiving more applications than for past openings, but he’s more impressed with the applicants.

"They’re more qualified for sure and many are willing to work for less money," he said.

Jim Miller, general manager for the Dakota Mountain Lodge under construction at The Canyons, said he’s had one applicant from as far away as Europe and has seen many people who were overqualified.

While competing with 250 other people is bad news for the applicants, it’s great news for service-related industries opening in the area.

So many intelligent and experienced people applied for the bar tending position, Oswald said, they were able to choose the candidate with the best personality.

"We were looking for vibrant people," he said. "Applicants who were happy, had a good feel and a good personality to make people feel welcome."

Miller at Dakota Mountain Lodge said personality is key.

The lodge is part of Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria brand of hotels. That brand exudes prestige and elevates the reputation of whatever communities it is found in, he said. To maintain that prestige, expectations must be met and exceeded.

The secret to great service is hiring great people, he said. The hotel is currently hiring about 50 people and will be looking to hire about 100 more in May. Attitude is the most important attribute.

"We’re not necessarily looking for hotel experience, because we can teach that. We want customer service experience with a great attitude and a great personality," he explained.

Miller shared an experience of eating at a San Francisco restaurant: After he paid the bill and stepped outside, the valet drivers had all three cars in his party ready and waiting with the engines running.

The servers at the restaurant would have had to have notified the valet drivers when he was done with his meal. That ability to anticipate needs and exceed expectations is what he wants in his hotel.

In addition to rising unemployment, he also believes he’s well situated to hire quality staff because his chain offers good benefits, job stability and advancement opportunities.

Miller said he anticipates filling 95 percent of his openings with people in Utah and said many of his applicants are Utah natives who have moved out of state and are looking for a job to come back.

Summit County unemployment claims

Courtesy of Curt Stewart, Dept. of Workforce Services

Jan. 2008 71

Jan. 2009 191

Feb 2008 47

Feb 2009 149

March 08 49

March 09 201

First Quarter 2008 total: 167

First Quarter 2009 total: 541