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Front Page » October 2, 2007 » Local News » Carbon County economy manages to sustain expanding employ...
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Carbon County economy manages to sustain expanding employment

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Carbon County managed to register a slight 0.6 employment expansion rate in August, despite the major economic impacts associated with the Crandall Canyon disaster and the layoffs at a local UtahEnergy coal mine.

Carbon County reported 9,322 non-farm salaried and wage jobs in August 2007, compared to 9,270 in 2006, indicated the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

The number of positions in the local labor market climbed from 9,201 jobs in July 2007, but dropped from the 9,666 employment opportunities posted in Carbon County in June.

At the state level, Utah's number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs dipped in August, moving downward to 4.5 percent growth during the last year.

Nevertheless, the statewide employment expansion rate continued to exceed Utah's long-term average of 3.3 percent job growth per year since 1950.

Approximately 54,500 jobs have been created in Utah economy during the last 12 months, raising total wage and salary employment statewide to 1,262,800.

The increase translates to in the neighborhood of 4,500 employment opportunities created per month statewide.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions - the statewide unemployment rate - measured at 2.6 percent in August 2007, down from last year's 2.9 percent jobless level.

Approximately 35,000 Utahns were unemployed in August 2007 compared to 37,700 in 2006.

"Utah's employment growth remains in high gear. Even though the employment growth rate moved down slightly and may yet continue to move slowly downward, our growth will still remain aggressive and above average," pointed out Mark Knold, DWS economist.

"Lately, I get asked how the sub-prime mortgage situation will affect Utah and the answer seems to be not much. Utah didn't experience a high usage of this mortgage voodoo, so our exposure to its negativity is limited. Even those who did use this financing vehicle may be able to weather their mortgage-rate adjustments, anchored upon Utah's strong job market and wage increases. Utah's economic growth momentum should be enough to mitigate any negative mortgage influence that may arise," explained Knold.

All of Utah's industrial sectors continued to add labor force positions in August. The statewide employment expansion occurred in different magnitudes and at varying rates, according to the department of workforce services economist.

Construction led job growth with more than 12,000 positions created at locations throughout Utah since August 2006.

However, the construction sector's expansion rate has subtly abated as 2007 has progressed.

"The decline is relatively small. But the point is not so much the amount of the decline, but the decline itself. It is a directional signal of a trend. This should come as no surprise, however, and with no alarm as the powerful construction growth of the past three years eventually had to start to abate. And with residential construction having passed its peak in 2006 and the current noticeable drop in house-building permits, this is all par for the course," explained Knold.

Non-residential construction should continue at a strong pace statewide for several years, providing a soft landing in the face of anticipated fewer residential housing approvals due to demographic factors, continued the department of workforce services economist.

The state's recent economic boom was primarily founded in a population surge fueled by an increase in the number of 20- to 30-year-old Utahns entering the labor force and the entire socio-economic sphere.

"Utah's economy could not absorb these new entrants in the early 2000s and is, therefore, now rapidly expanding to accommodate these new and emerging workers," noted the DWS economist. "Not only are they finding their place in the labor force, but with marriages and subsequent household formations, they also become a large group of consumers. They buy their first house, stock it with furniture, buy cars, diapers, needs and luxuries befitting the spending patterns of their age profile. They are the primary reason for Utah's recent construction boom. We have built to accommodate them. They are a large new group of consumers and we have built many new retail outlets to capture their dollars."

Utah's trade, transportation, and utilities sector added approximately 11,000 employment opportunities statewide during the last year and the number is slowly trending upward as more retail space comes on line.

Utah also continued to add quality positions to the state's economic portfolio.

"Some of this we see in the addition of 7,500 new jobs since last August in the professional and business services area," said Knold.

The sector includes staffing agencies. But the agencies' growth has dramatically slowed as labor has become a valuable commodity in a statewide environment of low unemployment.

Professional positions requiring knowledge through education and institutional experience accounted for the majority of the sector's expansion rate.

Service jobs that pay well include accountants, engineers, architects, consultants and researchers.

Health care continues to be a vibrant and growing industry in Utah, pointed out Knold. In the industry identification structure established by the federal government, health care and education are combined.

The combined sector added 5,200 jobs during the last 12 months.

"But make no mistake - most of that growth is occurring on the health care side. As population increases, so do illnesses, accidents and health maintenance needs," commented Knold.

At the national level, the United States' unemployment rate remained level at 4.6 percent in August.

Since August 2006, the U.S. economy added 1.5 million jobs nationwide, representing an employment growth rate of 1.1 percent.

The approximately 54,500 employment opportunities created in Utah represent about 5 percent of all labor market positions added nationwide in the last year.

Utah comprises less than 1 percent of all employment opportunities reported throughout the U.S., concluded the department of workforce services economist.

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