Get A Job? I’ve Already Got Three!
Breaking News: The following press release was distributed at 10 a.m. on July 23, 2021 to media outlets from the Lake County Public Health Agency, concerning the “second known death of a Lake County resident associated with a positive COVID-19 infection.” FULL REPORT HERE.
Labor Pains: The Latest Workforce Numbers
The numbers tend to get hazy and almost meaningless with each jobs and unemployment numbers report; it’s dizzying. From week to week, things are up or down, good or bad. But for most in Leadville Today, it’s a simple scroll away from such posts, should they even have a few minutes to check their feeds. It’s the busy season. For most, in Lake County, the season that arrives too late and leaves too early means working, and often times working more than one job, and maybe a side gig or two on top of that.
During the fairer weather months, there’s also a long list of to-dos from home repairs to making family memories to simply enjoying the blue skies, sunshine, and warmer temperatures that summertime brings to high mountain living. So when you see the sign at the local pizza joint that says “No Dine-In, Carry Out Only,” it’s because they are short-staffed and busier than ever, explained the Pizza Hut staff member when LT checked in with several Leadville businesses earlier this week.
“I’ve got some people lined up, but they said they’ll let me know when they have time to come in for an interview,” he explained.
Across town, the Big R set-up team continues to make upgrades to the old Shopko space with an anticipated opening still on track for late next month. But as other main street retailers struggle to keep their store hours due to a workforce shortage, the Highway 24 roadside banner might just be another sign of things to come as Lake County heads into its busiest month. In recent years, it’s become known as “Angry August” among the long-time local workforce, especially those on the front lines of tourism in Leadville Today.
“It’s already been pretty crazy,” shared one restaurant worker. “People seem to have forgotten how to act in public. Lots of rudeness.” The accounts range from people snapping fingers in the air to waitstaff, to impatient city-slickers “who can’t look around and see the place is busy,” to low inventory on some retail shelves due to distribution issues.
Combine those contentious situations with a labor burnout as the cost-of-living soars in America’s highest city, with the younger set maintaining 2-3 jobs during the Sa-WEETsummer in order to bank some coin to get through the off-season. Traditionally Lake County’s busiest month by far, August will also add thousands of racers and crew as Lifetime’s legendary 100-mile competitions play out on already crowded forest trails and county roadways.
“I hope the racers understand the Leadville they’ll be visiting this year,” concluded the grateful-for-the-business food server, who is also concerned about what the next 30 days will look like for Lake County.
The 2019 LT100 Run in Twin Lakes
On The Horizon: Angry August
“We’re slammed. Every day, from morning till night” shared one local cleaning company owner, charged with stripping the sheets and running the vacuum for the ever-growing list of short-term rentals in Leadville Today. Add to that, contracts with rental properties in neighboring Summit and Eagle County, and for many established disinfecting crews, their days easily run 12-14 hours. And yes, they have families, other responsibilities, and the desire to enjoy their summer as well. “It’s been tough, but we’re getting it done,” she concluded.
While Leadville’s Boom Days tradition is waylaid for yet another year, the first, full weekend in August will still see a leg of burro racing’s triple crown take place, drawing hundreds to historic Harrison Avenue. And if you haven’t heard already, there are plans in the works for a block party in the heart of downtown for August 7, which would have traditionally been Boom Days Saturday complete with Leadville’s biggest and best parade, highlighting community groups and local businesses. Instead of a day of pancake breakfast, pie-eating contests, and mining events at The Elks Lodge, locals can anticipate a block party complete with live music and likely a beer garden. Those details are still getting flushed out – and permitted!
But the truth is that Harrison Avenue’s shops and cafes are fairing just fine when it comes to getting customers through the doors! It’s what they’ll find once they cross the threshold, as the supply chain that is the biggest challenge, with shortages being reported from coast to coast as well as Leadville’s main drag.
“Our inventory is low,” stated Dan Witmer whose family has owned and operated one of Leadville’s most beloved Harrison Avenue shops, The Rock Hut. “There is a lot stuff sitting in cargo ships off the coast,” he explains referring to the backlog in distribution due to a nationwide truck-driver shortage to get the goods to Leadville. Fortunately for more established businesses like The Rock Hut, experience lends itself to preparation.
“I’m digging through a lot of inventory in storage, stuff Dad had packed away from years ago,” Witmer stated, referring to his (late) father Jim Witmer who started the wildly popular rock shop in 1974 with his wife Irene and (late) business partner Gus Seppi. The retail store sells minerals and fossils from around the world. “We’re putting out what inventory we have to keep our shelves full. And people seem to like it.”
Whether it’s rocks or restaurants, there is little doubt that Leadville is at a tipping point. Or maybe the scales have already turned?
Regardless, be kind to your friends and neighbors, especially those on the front lines of tourism. Take the back roads – although those don’t look any better this summer! And then, do your best to enjoy one of the best months in Leadville Today as America’s highest city heads into another angry August, over-stuffed and under-staffed.
Climax: Digging Deep, Doubling Digits
While downtown navigates a downturn in the labor market, up on the hill, the Climax Mine’s parent company Freeport-McMoran released its “Second-Quarter and Six-Month 2021 Results.”
It’s clear that the international mining giant is having a good year with the market in its favor when it comes to heavy metals. Because anytime a relatively conservative multi-nation corporation uses terms such as “strong financial results” with “favorable operational and market outlook,” there are some pretty sunny days anticipated ahead. Of course, with the anticipated ramp-up of Freeport’s #goldmine heavy-hitter overseas, the Grasberg underground #goldmine is advancing on schedule in Indonesia and will likely continue to contribute to the lion’s share for stockholders. Meanwhile, closer to home, molybdenum is more than just keeping its pitching arm warm. Here are some of the report’s highlights:
- Second-quarter 2021 molybdenum sales of 22 million pounds approximated the April 2021 estimate. Second-quarter 2021 molybdenum sales were higher than second-quarter 2020 sales of 18 million pounds of molybdenum, primarily reflecting increased demand and timing of shipments.
- Consolidated sales totaled 929 million pounds of copper, 305 thousand ounces of gold and 22 million pounds of molybdenum in second-quarter 2021. Consolidated sales for the year 2021 are expected to approximate 3.85 billion pounds of copper, 1.3 million ounces of gold and 86 million pounds of molybdenum, including 1.035 billion pounds of copper, 360 thousand ounces of gold and 21 million pounds of molybdenum in third-quarter 2021.
- Net income attributable to common stock in second-quarter 2021 totaled $1.08 billion, $0.73 per share, and adjusted net income attributable to common stock totaled $1.14 billion, or $0.77 per share, after adjusting for net charges totaling $56 million, $0.04 per share.
- Richard C. Adkerson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, “Our global team continues to execute our operating plans safely, efficiently and responsibly, providing strong cash flows and a solid foundation for future profitability and growth. During the first half of 2021, we reduced our net debt by $2.7 billion and achieved our targeted net debt level, positioning us for increasing cash returns to shareholders and investments in future growth in accordance with our financial policy. As a leading responsible producer of copper, we are optimistic about the prospects for our business and our role in supporting a growing global economy and the transition to clean energy. We remain focused on building value for all stakeholders through solid management of our long-lived and high-quality portfolio of copper assets.”
The Hard Numbers: June 2021
Earlier this week the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released Colorado Employment Situation for June 2021., as well as its very detailed Unemployment Insurance Charts Through July 10 2021.
For Lake County, unemployment numbers held steady at 5.9%, following the state’s unmoved percent from May to June 2021 holding at 6.2%. During the same period, the national unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.9 percent.
The Colorado counties with the highest unemployment rates in June were: Huerfano (8.8%), Pueblo (8.7%), Gilpin (7.2%), San Miguel (7.2%), and Fremont (7.2%). County-level unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted and are directly comparable to Colorado’s June unadjusted rate of 6.3 percent.