Thursday, December 19, 2013

Skiing Employment in Utah Revisited

Tyson Smith, Economist

Last month, I explored the skiing industry in Utah. The post, “It’s Another Utah Ski Season”, highlighted the seasonal nature of employment and wages at Utah’s skiing facilities. It was reported that employment in the industry fluctuated between approximately 1,200 employees during the off-season and around 6,000 employees during the peak winter months. While these data are correct, the term “skiing facilities industry” went undefined in the original post and does not fully reflect employment totals for every ski resort in the state.

The employment data used in the initial analysis was specifically for the skiing facilities industry as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). NAICS provides a tool for evaluating the economy by grouping establishments into industries based on the activity in which they are primarily engaged. In other words, establishments that do similar things in similar ways are classified together.

Skiing facilities that do not own lodging are coded directly into the “skiing facilities” NAICS code. If a ski facility owns accommodations, it is instead classified under the NAICS code for “hotels and motels”. Examples of hotel-owning resorts in Utah would be The Canyons, Snowbird, Solitude and Sundance. In order to combine those resorts with “skiing facilities”, their employment counts have to be manually extracted from the “hotels and motels” classification. (Note: there is lodging at most of Utah’s skiing facilities, but in many cases the hotel is not owned by the ski resort).

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Figure 1 illustrates the difference in seasonal employment between Utah’s skiing facilities and those ski
resorts classified as hotels. The box-plots show that 2012-2013 employment varied more for Utah’s skiing facilities than it did for the ski resorts that owned lodging. From May 2012 to April 2013, employment at Utah’s skiing facilities fluctuated 442 percent from base to peak, compared to the hotel-owning resorts which had employment counts change 163 percent over the same period. The difference in seasonal employment trends underscores the classification of hotel-owning resorts differently.

There are practical reasons for making the effort to combine the employment counts for all Utah ski resorts. Figure 2 shows that Utah skiing facilities employment more than doubles in the off-season when the hotel-owning resorts are included. During the on-season the addition of hotel-owning resort employment increases the industry total by approximately 70 percent.

DWS strives to provide the clearest information possible. NAICS codes offer a system by which data can be easily and systematically analyzed. Yet, there are times when appending individual companies from other NAICS codes delivers a more a comprehensive explanation. We hope that the definitions contained in this blog post help to better illuminate the employment patterns of the Utah ski resorts.

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