Park City-area employment gains continue, but the pace is rapidly slowing
The unemployment rate in Summit County in August continued to drop, but the pace of the decline slowed, meaning the gains were not as great as the other months since the rate spiked during the shutdowns of the spring designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The state Department of Workforce Services said the unemployment rate in the county in August was 6.6%, dropping from 6.9% in July. The percentage-point drop between the July and August rates was the lowest since the start of the recovery from a spike in unemployment in April.
The slowing in the gains points toward the likeliness of a drawn-out period before the numbers drop to the pre-coronavirus levels. The unemployment rate in August of 2019 was 2.3%.
The rate in Summit County soared in April, in the weeks after the forced mid-March end to the ski season as health officials took dramatic steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The April rate, a stunning 20.4%, was likely the highest since the collapse of the silver-mining industry decades ago. The numbers have dropped consistently in the months since April, but the gains have slowed over that period.
The Summit County rate in August was higher than the statewide rate of 4.1%. The county, though, did not have one of the highest rates in the state.
The rate in Wasatch County in August was 5.9%, a drop from the 6.4% the month before. The rate in Wasatch County is notable since a large bloc of the Park City-area workforce lives in the neighboring county.
The gains in Summit County occurred during a summer that seemed to provide an economic surprise to the upside as large crowds descended on Park City in July and August. The community appeared jammed on some of the weekends, with a combination of day-trippers from Utah and people from outside the state visiting.
Further significant improvement in the unemployment rate likely hinges on the upcoming ski season and the state of the spread of the illness as the winter approaches. It seems unlikely hiring in the weeks ahead of the scheduled November start of the ski season will be as brisk as a typical year amid concerns that tourism in the winter will drop sharply from previous ski seasons.
The mountain resorts are readying for the first-ever socially distanced ski season while the Sundance Film Festival in January, usually an employment driver, will be scaled back.
City Hall recently released projections showing sales-tax numbers during the core months of the ski season are expected to suffer badly. Sales taxes are an important measure of the economic health of the community and at some level influence the state of employment since they are related to the amount of business that is conducted inside Park City.
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The Park City lodging industry in recent weeks experienced an uptick in projected occupancy numbers during the dates of the Sundance Film Festival, but the figures remain depressed from a typical year during the largest special event on the city’s calendar.