Park City-area unemployment ticks down, but only slightly, amid an online Sundance
Unemployment rate in Summit County dropped to 5.6% in January
The unemployment rate in Summit County dropped slightly to 5.6% in January and the December figure was adjusted sharply downward, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, signaling continued improvement in the labor market in the middle of the ski season.
The 5.6% rate recorded in January beat the 5.7% rate in December. The department in the January report downwardly revised the December figure from an initial 6.5% reading.
The 5.6% in January remained elevated from the same month the year before, when the rate in Summit County was 2.3%. The Summit County rate in January was also significantly higher than the statewide figure of 3.1%.
The 5.6% was the lowest since March of 2020, when the rate was 2.9%. The next month, in April of 2020, unemployment soared to a staggering 20.4% as the spread of the novel coronavirus forced an end to the ski season in March, several weeks earlier than scheduled, amid a broad business shutdown.
The employment numbers in Summit County improved markedly in the months after the end of the shutdowns and as the Park City-area started an economic recovery that built momentum into the ski season.
The pace of the recovery in employment numbers in Summit County has slowed, though, after the initial months of sharp decreases in the rate. The 5.6% in January was down just 1.2 percentage points from the 6.8% in September and October. Hirings for the ski season typically increase during those months as a wide swath of businesses prepare for the opening of Park City Mountain Resort in November and Deer Valley Resort the next month.
The lack of significant improvement in the January number, meanwhile, also almost certainly reflects the cancellation of the Sundance Film Festival as an in-person event that month. Sundance was instead held via an online platform. Numerous businesses in the Park City area normally increase staffing levels for Sundance, which draws some of the largest crowds of the year to Park City during a typical winter.
It is unclear whether the rate in Summit County will move significantly in February and March, the last two full months of the ski season. Although business has appeared to be brisk in the Park City area, the reports in December and January may have captured much of the hiring for the ski season.
The unemployment rate in Wasatch County in January was 5.7%, unchanged from the month before. The rate in Wasatch County is notable since Park City’s sphere of economic influence stretches well into the neighboring jurisdiction.
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Park City Attorney Margaret Plane recently sent a memo to elected and appointed officials, as well as candidates in the City Hall election, cautioning them about making public statements regarding development proposals. The memo outlines that stands on planning and zoning matters could jeopardize a later process, such as when a decision by the Planning Commission is put to the City Council through an appeal.