DENVER — While Denver's tourism economy is seeing a big jump since the pandemic, the workforce isn't making the return as quickly.
There are options available for people who continue to collect unemployment. Nearly 500 full-time jobs within five miles of Denver were posted on ZipRecruiter within the last 24 hours. About 1 in 4 promises earnings in the potential six figure range.
But, let’s be honest. Some people just don't want to work, especially when enhanced unemployment benefits mean they don't have to take an hourly job to get by. In some cases, they’re making more on unemployment.
So, is it milking the system, or just maximizing your opportunity? If you ask some, it’s about maximizing opportunity.
“We’re just going to go with the flow and see where life takes us,” said Annabel Warren, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia who is taking the summer off to travel with friends.
“We’re going to Red Rocks tonight,” said Sarah Lane, who also recently graduated from UVA. “We’re staying here for a couple days, and then we’re driving to Jackson Hole.”
Both Warren and Lane have jobs lined up this fall, but they are taking advantage of a summer off to travel and see some sights.
Lane says it took about five months for her to find a job, and she’s enjoying the last few weeks with friends before she starts in Washington, D.C. next month.
“I start in August,” Lane said. “It was kind of hard to get the job. I think because of COVID and everything, but I’m trying to take advantage before it starts.”
Beertender Sarah Stoll says she kind of hit a groove during her furlough.
“I was working and then the pandemic hit. I am a workaholic, but I did enjoy time off,” said Stoll, who works at Denver’s Milk Market. “I was working out every day, eating good food. One thing the pandemic taught us was the value of time off.”
Despite that, Stoll couldn’t be happier to be back after several months off.
“It’s great to be back,” Stoll said. “Seeing all the customers.”
Both of these examples tell the story well.
While vacationers are flocking back to hotels and restaurants, workers aren’t coming back as fast; many of them enjoying extended vacations themselves. According to new figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, metro Denver has filled 141,000 jobs in leisure and hospitality, but that’s still 30,000 shy of pre-pandemic figures.
For some, it boils down to work-life balance.
“Taking advantage of the time that we have to do nothing, really,” Warren said.
Warren has a job lined up in New York City in September and feels fortunate to have the time now to hang out with friends.
Denver could be considered ground zero for tourism. According to new data from Zenreach, Denver has seen a 146% increase in retail, restaurant and entertainment foot traffic since January. That’s drastically above the national average of 55%.
For now, Stoll and her team are keeping up with the crowds.
“These beers are all local beers,” Stoll said of the taps at the Stranded Pilgrim inside Denver’s Milk Market. “They’re beers that you maybe can’t get anywhere else at the moment.”
The workforce gap will certainly be tested over the next month or so as the federal unemployment bonus expires.