Local Business

“Help Wanted:” Shortage of Workers Hits Home

As the high country heads into the thick of the tourist season, Leadville and Lake County businesses have been experiencing a smaller and smaller labor pool to draw from. And while that may be good news for the workers, for small businesses who rely on the extra help to get through the busiest part of the year, the next several weeks could prove more challenging than they have in years.


One of the busiest businesses on historic Harrison Avenue, City on A Hill Coffee and Espresso is the place to get your java fix and it’s a good place to work! Photo: Leadville Today/Kathy Bedell

According to the Labor Market Info website, while the national unemployment rate stands at 4.4%, in Colorado that number drops even further to 2.3%. And for Leadville business owners looking to fill their staff positions for the height of the busy tourist season, that number is a stark reality!

“I’m not fully convinced anyone even wants to work anymore for a fair wage,” stated one Leadville business owner whose “Help Wanted” sign has been on standby for its regular window appearance since the beginning of the summer season. “Between a shortage of people who want to work, and a housing shortage for those I can recruit, it’s going to be challenging to get through the rest of the busy summer season and maintain the quality of service my customers expect.”

Statistic from the Colorado Labor Market Information website show that right behind the heavy-hitter employers like Freeport-McMoran’s Climax Mine, it’s the seasonal need from retail stores that have the highest number of job openings. From Safeway, to Kum-n-Go, to Shopko, it’s the re-stocking of shelves and the cashier jobs needed to ring up your purchase that seem to remain unfilled.

One Leadville restaurateur, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that “if I hear one more applicant tell me that they can work at Wendy’s for $13.50/hour plus benefits, I’m gonna scream. While I can’t compete with the bigger companies over in Summit and Eagle, I do offer a decent wage in a local business that treats its employees fair and decent. But I don’t know if that’s enough anymore.”

A quick check with the Leadville Colorado Workforce Center echoed the same sentiments, adding that there has been a decline in a skilled labor numbers. In other words, it appears that the workers available in the local market are often not meeting up with the requirements from job postings. It’s also a good reminder that this local office is a great resource for busy business owners, to help sort out perspective applicants. If you have a job opening, posting it with the Leadville center can cast the net of possible applicants a bit further, in addition to vetting out those not qualified for the position. It’s a time-saver in both the hiring process, as well as the more time-consuming training process for entry level employees. The Leadville Workforce Center is located at 115 W. 6th Street, upstairs in the McGregor Building. You can also connect with them online HERE.

So locals and visitors may need to pack some extra patience when heading out to the local grocery stores or to enjoy a meal at your favorite restaurant. Buckle up, the busy season is here in Leadville Today!

Leadville Shopko Grand Opening July 10 2015_POST_1

The Leadville Shopko which had its Grand Opening in Leadville two years ago on July 10, has been challenged to keep it’s payroll full with stockers and cashiers as mountain communities sees low unemployment rate this summer. Photo: Leadville Today/Kathy Bedell

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, here is the latest jobs report issued last Friday, July 21, 2017.

Colorado Employment Situation – June 2017

Employers in Colorado added 6,500 nonfarm payroll jobs from May to June for a total of 2,647,000 jobs, according to the survey of business establishments. Private sector payroll jobs increased 6,100 and government increased 400.

According to the survey of households, the unemployment rate was unchanged from May to June at 2.3 percent. The number of people actively participating in the labor force increased 10,300 over the month to 2,969,100 and the number of people reporting themselves as employed increased 10,500 to 2,901,900, causing the number of unemployed to decrease 200. Due to rounding, the unemployment rate was unchanged from May at 2.3 percent.

The national unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point in June to 4.4 percent. Over the year, the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased from 33.7 to 34.2 hours and average hourly earnings decreased from $26.80 to $26.75. The largest over the month private sector job gains were in professional and business services, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality. The largest over the month declines were in construction and information.


There is no shortage of “Help Wanted” and “Hiring” signs across mountain communities as the market deals with a low unemployment rate in Colorado.

Over the year, nonfarm payroll jobs increased 54,900, with an increase of 51,600 in the private sector and an increase of 3,300 in government. The largest private sector job gains were in trade, transportation, and utilities, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality. Mining and logging declined over the year. Over the year, the unemployment rate is down one and one-tenth of a percentage point from 3.4 percent.

The number of Coloradans participating in the labor force increased 83,100, total employment increased 113,300 and the number of unemployed decreased 30,300. The national unemployment rate declined from 4.9 percent in June 2016 to 4.4 percent in June 2017.

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