Park City unemployment rate improves slightly in last reading before ski season |

Park City unemployment rate improves slightly in last reading before ski season

The state Department of Workforce Services operates an office in Prospector.
Park Record file photo

The unemployment rate in Summit County in October improved slightly while the rate in September was downwardly adjusted from an initial reading, pointing to continued recovery in the key hiring months prior to the start of the ski season.

The state Department of Workforce Services reported the unemployment rate in Summit County in October was 6.5%, dropping from the revised 6.6% tallied in September. The initial reading for September put the number at 7.7%.

The October figure, though, was well above the same month the previous year, when the rate was 2.3%.

The 6.5% in October was the lowest figure since March. Although the rate has improved significantly since the spring, the pace of the gains has slowed since the sharp uptick in employment as Park City-area businesses reopened after the spring shutdowns while the community attempted to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The unemployment rate soared in the spring after the ski season ended several weeks early and amid a widespread shutdown of businesses to combat the illness. The rate in Summit County in April reached a staggering 20.4% with workers in a variety of business segments tied to the tourism industry seeking unemployment benefits at the time.

The number started to drop the following month with the biggest gains in the months immediately following April. The gains have largely leveled off since then, leaving the rate elevated from those of previous years since the recovery from the recession a decade ago.

The unemployment rate in Wasatch County in October was 6%, dropping from 6.2% in September. The rate in Wasatch County is notable since the Park City economic sphere of influence reaches into the neighboring county and numerous members of the Park City-area workforce live in Wasatch County.

It is not clear what sort of moves will be made in coming months in the Summit County rate. The employment situation at this point in the year largely depends on the ski season. Hiring for the ski season usually picks up in September and October, in the weeks prior to the November and December openings of the mountain resorts. If that was the case this year, the October Department of Workforce Services report would have reflected some of the gains from ski-season hiring.

There remains concern across the community about the prospects of a steep drop in business during the ski season with the spread of the coronavirus continuing at the outset of winter. It is expected to be a difficult winter for sectors related to the tourism industry. Numbers in the lodging industry, as an example, are forecast to drop precipitously from a typical year. A drop in that industry would likely ripple through other sectors like restaurant and transportation.

There is also worry that the Sundance Film Festival, usually an especially lucrative stretch of the winter, will not generate economic numbers anywhere near what is typical. Any projected drop in festival-related business would be expected to lead to lessened demand for workers in January.

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