Park City-area unemployment rate levels out, more evidence gains slowed into the ski season |

Park City-area unemployment rate levels out, more evidence gains slowed into the ski season

The number remains elevated from previous year even after earlier improvements

Main Street drew holiday shoppers in December alongside the visiting skiers and snowboarders. The Park City-area unemployment rate that month, though, remained in the same range as it has been since September.
Park Record file photo

The unemployment rate in Summit County in December was 6.5%, in the range of the numbers through the fall, the Utah Department of Workforce Services reported, additional evidence of a leveling out in the gains since the summer.

The rate was even with a downwardly revised reading in November. The initial number put the rate that month at 6.8%.

The rate has ranged from 6.5% to 6.8% since September. The fall and early winter numbers are important each year in the Park City area since hiring for the ski season peaks during those months.

The gains have been significant since the rate spiked in the spring amid the broad shutdowns as the community attempted to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. But the rate of the gains has slowed in recent months, pointing to the possibility of a leveling off.

It is unclear whether there could be significant additional gains in the immediate future. By the time of the next report, which will cover January, nearly all of the hiring for the ski season would likely have already occurred. The tight range between September and December, meanwhile, seems to show there were not widespread hirings in the months before the start of the ski season.

The unemployment rate in December of 2019 was 2.3%.

The Summit County unemployment rate soared in the early days of the spread of the sickness, reaching a stunning 20.4% in April. The mountain resorts and a broad swath of the economy of Park City and surrounding Summit County temporarily closed in March, leading to the spike in April.

The rate dropped quickly as the Park City economy reopened in the summer. The community enjoyed solid business through the summer and the fall, but many places did not rehire at the same levels as those prior to the spread of the sickness, the numbers show. There was hope for broader gains in the ski season, but those did not materialize, at least at the outset of the winter.

The January numbers, which will be released later in February, will offer a midwinter reading and show whether there was another round of hiring as businesses during that month adjusted to what seemed to be an uptick in tourism early in the winter.

The numbers in January, though, will also reflect the impact of the loss of the Sundance Film Festival as an in-person event. Sundance usually is an employment driver in industries like lodging, restaurant and transportation. Businesses would not have been expected to increase staffing in January in the usual manner based on Sundance unfolding in an online format instead of as a live gathering.

The unemployment rate in Wasatch County in December was 5.5%, dropping from 5.8% in November but well above the 2.6% recorded in December of 2019. The number in Wasatch County is notable in the Park City area since a bloc of the local workforce lives in the bordering county and the Park City sphere of economic influence reaches into that county.

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