Summit County unemployment rates drops, but is now highest in Utah
The unemployment rate in Summit County in May dropped from a historic high reported in the month before, but it remained at an elevated rate as the impacts of the novel coronavirus on the Park City-area economy continue.
The state Department of Workforce Services tallied a 16.9% rate in May in the county. The April number was upwardly revised to 20.4% from the 20.3% reported initially.
It was a sharp drop between April and May as some businesses began to reopen after the March and April shutdowns as health officials attempted to halt the spread of the illness. The mountain resorts closed in March, several weeks early than scheduled, and numerous other businesses were closed as well as the Park City area’s tourism industry was essentially shuttered.
While still a worrisome figure, the 16.9% unemployment rate reported in May shows clear progress in the job market. The Summit County rate in May, however, was the highest in the state. It was slightly worse than the 16.5% reported in Grand County, anchored by Moab and another place that is heavily reliant on the tourism industry. The rate in April put Summit County as the third worst.
The May figure also soared above the number in the previous May, when the unemployment rate was 2.5%.
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The unemployment rate in Wasatch County in May, meanwhile, was 14.2%, dropping from 17.5% the month before. The Wasatch County unemployment rate is of note in Park City and surrounding Summit County since the Park City economic sphere of influence reaches into Wasatch County.
The 16.9% rate in Summit County in May was a sharp drop from the month before, but the number remains extremely high for the county. The unemployment rate since at least the early 1990s has not approached the figures of April or May, and it seems likely the last time it has reached toward them was decades ago, as the silver-mining industry collapsed and the ski industry was in its early years. The recessions in the early 1990s, the early 2000s and a decade ago never increased the Summit County unemployment rate to even 8%, according to Department of Workforce Services data.
A Department of Workforce Services official predicted in a recent interview the unemployment rate in May would drop from the previous month but remain elevated. Mark Knold, the chief economist for the department, said recently the April numbers would be the “high point” of the losses and the May numbers would improve over those of the previous month. He said the numbers would continue to show gains through 2020, but he also said a so-called V-shaped recovery, when the losses and the gains are both sharp, is unlikely.
The Park City economy continues to suffer as midsummer approaches. There has been a series of cancellations of special events, such as the Tour of Utah bicycling race, the Park City Kimball Arts Festival and the traditional Fourth of July celebration, dragging down the tourism numbers in the summer. The ski season, far more lucrative than the summer, is also expected to be impacted at some level.
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“The belief is that …there will be less of a demand, or need, for international workers. Today, given unemployment rates, we clearly would not be hiring international workers.”