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Front Page » May 29, 2008 » Local News » Carbon reports declining labor force, climbing unemployment
Published 2,684 days ago

Carbon reports declining labor force, climbing unemployment

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Carbon County continued to experience dropping non-farm employment numbers and climbing jobless levels in April.

The latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate that Carbon's labor force registered at 9,110 in April 2008.

By comparison, the county reported a 9,502 total employment level last year.

The decrease represents a negative 4.1 percent local job expansion rate.

In addition, Carbon's unemployment climbed last month to 4.3 percent from the 3.2 jobless rate posted by the county in April 2007.

At the state level, the department of workforce services estimates Utah's non-farm wage and salaried job growth for April at 2 percent.

Approximately 24,800 jobs were created in the Utah economy in the past year, raising total wage and salary employment statewide to 1,272,500.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the unemployment rate, measured at 3.1 percent last month, dipping slightly from March's 3.3 percent measure.

Approximately 42,700 Utahns were considered unemployed last month compared to 34,400 in April 2007.

The nationwide unemployment rate moved down one-tenth of a percentage point to 5 percent.

"While the United States economy struggles to keep itself out of or just barely in recession, Utah's economy remains on better footing," indicated DWS representative Mark Knold. "Yes, housing-related construction and housing-related activities are currently a drag on economic growth and will likely remain so for the remainder of this year. But that sector currently seems isolated as the rest of Utah's economy is showing resiliency."

The majority of Utah's industrial sectors continued to add jobs last month. Even the state's cyclical industries expanded during the last 12 months.

"Nationally, this is a consumer-led recession. Job losses undermine the consumer most, while job gains support their strength. Utah's job gains and the continued outlook for more are the state's strongest foundation in supporting Utah consumers and why this state has a better chance of staying above the national recession," pointed Knold.

Utah has several unique features that give the state's economy strength that generally transcends the national level. But Utah does not function in isolation and the state is influenced by national trends.

"That is why the current overall slowing of the Utah economy is both expected and unavoidable," commented Knold.

Several Utah industries are less vulnerable to business cycle changes.

Accounting for the state's second highest job count, the education and health care sector added 5,700 employment opportunities statewide.

Government's yearly employment growth rates are generally between 1 percent and 1.5 percent.

The sector's expansion rate registered at 1.5 percent to create 3,300 jobs statewide, with the majority of the growth occurring in Utah's counties, cities, public school systems and municipal districts.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector created the most employment opportunities at 7,500 jobs.

The majority of the sector's growth was at the retail trade level.

"But as we see nationally, consumers are the flash point of the current economic environment so this presents the potential for future volatility in this industry," explained Knold. "Utah's current retail trade expansion is living off of the recent, but past housing boom which has hit a temporary, but rapid pause. When you couple that slowdown with high gasoline prices competing for the disposable consumer dollar - which cause consumers to often shift away from other retail purchases to compensate - then one concludes that this sector faces a difficult path toward further strong growth.."

Utah's manufacturing sector created 2,400 jobs in the last 12 months. But recent layoffs and closure announcements reflect the vulnerable nature of the industry to national influences.

"Even with Utah's employment growth slowing, an unemployment rate of only 3.1 percent still signals an economy not only absorbing new workers, but also searching for workers. We still hear of the need for highly skilled workers like engineers in this state. Welders and machinists are also often mentioned. The shortfalls in the latter two occupations are consequences of a long-term national trend," noted Knold.

Nationwide, manufacturing and production jobs have been downsized and a generation of Americans have steered away from the sector.

"This collective negative psychology and avoidance is now producing a shortage of workers in these often called middle, yet technical, skill areas.

As a result, opportunities are increasing in these skilled occupations that pay a life-supporting wage," said Knold.

At the national level, the United States economy added 381,000 jobs between last month and April 2007 for a growth rate of 0.3 percent.

The approximately 24,800 employment opportunities created in Utah during the 12-month period represent about 6.5 percent of all jobs added in the U.S.

Utah's labor force comprises less than 1 percent of all jobs nationwide.

The U.S. job expansion trend continues to point downward, concluded the Utah Department of Workforce Services' latest unemployment report.

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