Still an employer's market

Cliff Thompson
August 14, 2004

If you're in business, you'd probably like a crystal ball to tell you how difficult it will be to find employees for the coming year. But what some of the largest employers in the county are saying may cheer you, if only moderately.

Gone are the days of employee shortages and pirate-like recruitment just to fill positions. In its place is a more stable and willing work force that is providing employers a choice in who to hire.

"Five years ago we'd take anybody who had a pulse," said Jacquie Halburnt, a spokeswoman for the Town of Avon, which has approximately 110 full-time and 160 part-time employees. " The last couple of years we haven't had as hard of a time finding employees. We always have part time employees."

Part of the reason for the stability is the national employment picture. There are 7.8 million unemployed Americans out of a 142.2 million-person workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Maybe a little tighter

Not everyone shares that viewpoint. John Power, the human resources director at the Town of Vail, said he's seeing a tightening in the employee market that he believes is being caused by an economy that is starting to improve. The town employs 220 full-time employees and hires an additional 80 in ski season.

"Municipalities are being challenged in seeing more development money coming into play," which is creating demand for employees, Power said. "We're seeing demand in general, not just for basic entry-level positions, but for professionals too."

At Vail Resorts - the county's largest employer with 1,200 full-time employees, 4,800 part-time employees and nearly 8,000 seasonal employees nationwide - Human Resources Director Rick Smith said it's still early, but he believes employee availability this year will mimic last year.

"We are anticipating that unemployment has gone down a bit," he said, "I think we're still in for a pretty good recruiting season. It won't be like five years ago."

Down under

Eagle County, Vail and Avon have a joint recruiting program to fill open positions using the H2B visa to recruit workers from abroad. Most of them come from Australia and New Zealand and are bound to their employer for the term of the job.

"We did some international recruiting five years ago that essentially fixed the problem," Power said. "It provides a benefit for the entire valley."

"If we didn't have the H2B program, we'd be in deep trouble," added Eagle County Human Resources Director Carla Budd.

She said it appears the employee supply this year appears to be the same as last.

One thing that has helped the county recruit its 390 full-time employees and 150 seasonal and part-time employees is a higher pay scale.

"We went to a market-based pay plan and that has made it easier," she said.

Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or