Unemployment in Summit County drops to 2.1%; entrepreneurs without staffing issues share insights on operations

The True Blue Coffee & Gelato counter in Dillon on display in November 2021. The store is co-owned by Ariel Johnston and her sister and father, who also co-own Everything Colorado, Frisco Trading Post and Copper Mountain Mercantile.
Real Blue Coffee and Ice Cream / Courtesy Photo

Unemployment in Summit County continues to decline.

In February, the countywide unemployment rate was 2.9 percent.According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment April report, Summit County’s rate is now 2.1 percent, the lowest rate in the state with 12 other counties. Other counties with lower rates than the Summit include Douglas (2.3%), Jackson (2%) and Elbert (2.3%).

The state’s unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, according to the department’s April report.

Typically, lower unemployment rates are associated with hiring difficulties. This isn’t a new challenge for Summit County businesses. Over the past year or so, many owners say they have struggled to fill open positions.Some even have Reduce or switch services tackle challenges while others try to Improve employee wages and benefits.

But the two local business frontmen sang to a different tune. Both Ariel Johnston and Lori Maphies said they were not struggling with staffing as they entered what is expected to be a particularly busy summer travel season.

Johnston co-owns Summit County stores Everything Colorado, Frisco Trading Post and Copper Mountain Mercantile. She also co-owns True Blue Coffee & Gelato. About 20 jobs are needed to keep all four businesses running, Johnston said. All but a few new positions at True Blue have been filled. The coffee shop just got a liquor license, so now Johnston says she’s looking for someone who is at least 21 years old.

Even so, she said she wasn’t worried about filling those positions.

“For us, we’ve done a really good job with staffing,” Johnston said. “When our headcount starts to drop below our headcount, basically what we do is one of the bosses – myself, my sister or my dad – will come in and fill the shift until we find the right person. … I think it helps to find the right people.”

Mapphies relies on the same backup options as Johnston. Maphies, who co-owns Marigolds Farmhouse Funk & Junk in Breckenridge with her sister and daughter, said if they were short of staff, the three owners would work overtime to ensure the store remained open.

Typically, the store relies on seven positions to stay afloat, all of which are currently full. Historically, the store has not had a hard time keeping those positions staffed, Maphies said.

“I just think it’s an interesting store and we have a lot of loyal customers,” Maphies said of Marigold’s. “We just have a lot of people who are willing to spend more time there. Honestly, that’s exactly what I think. We offer competitive wages, we offer discounts to our employees, so I think that’s going to attract a lot of people who really like our store and customers who are willing to be with us.”

Other factors are at play: Johnston said last year that the owner decided to invest in a two-bedroom unit to provide staff housing for some of the staff.

She also mentioned The Pad, a new inn-hotel hybrid in Silverthorne that will allow people to experience Summit County life before deciding to move entirely to the community. She said she hired a lot of people who used to live in The Pad and used it to transition to Summit County after moving.

Blair McGary, executive director of the Summit Chamber of Commerce, said that’s not to say other businesses aren’t having trouble hiring.

“People have left the community — at least 25 percent throughout the pandemic — so even though we have low unemployment, that doesn’t mean staffing has improved,” McGarry said in a statement. said in an email. “When unemployment is low, but there are still plenty of vacancies, it means skills don’t match job opportunities.”

This is likely to be the case, especially as more jobs are added to the market. Private sectors with notable job gains for the month included the state’s leisure and hospitality industry, which added 6,400 jobs statewide, according to the April report. The trade, transportation and utilities industries added about 3,200 jobs. Construction added about 1,900 jobs.

As more jobs are added to the market and competition to attract talent remains fierce, businesses will need to stand out and stand out in their applications.

“I think places that become creative and flexible with their employees are doing a good job of attracting and retaining employees,” McGarry said in an email.