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Front Page » August 19, 2008 » Carbon County News » Labor force, jobless levels rise in county
Published 2,204 days ago

Labor force, jobless levels rise in county


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Although Carbon's economy managed to post employment gains in July, the county experienced a climbing jobless rate last month.

The latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate Carbon's unemployment rate increased to 4.6 percent last month from the 4.5 percent level reported in June 2008.

By comparison, Carbon's unemployment rate measured at 3.6 percent in July 2007.

On the positive side of the economic spectrum, Carbon County posted a 1.6 percent employment expansion rate, with the local labor force totalling 9,242 last month and 9,097 in July 2007.

At the state level, Utah's non-farm wage and salaried job growth for July 2008, as compared against July 2007, is estimated at 0.6 percent. This is lower than last month's 0.9 percent and represents more downward movement in Utah's employment picture.

Approximately 7,300 jobs have been created in the Utah economy within the past year, raising total wage and salary employment to 1,250,100.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions - the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate - jumped to 3.5 percent in July. Last July, the state's rate was 2.7 percent.

Approximately 48,900 Utahns were considered unemployed in July compared to 37,000 last year.

At the national level, the United States unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent in July, exceeding last year's nationwide jobless level by one full percentage point.

"The housing construction picture keeps getting worse and it really has no chance of improving until next year at the earliest. Even next year carries its own questions," commented Mark Knold, department of workforce services economist. "Is Utah in a recession? Probably a psychological recession, given rising energy and food prices plus an onslaught of negative media highlights. But Utah's remaining industries taken together don't support a recession. In fact, if we removed the construction industry from the picture, Utah's employment growth rate across the remaining industries is almost 2 percent."

"Online job listings are down a bit for July, but not significantly," pointed out the DWS economist. "The health care industry continues to aggressively expand employment and I recently attended a meeting composed of information technology and life science human resource personnel who bemoaned the lack of engineers and other available technicians. They would hire workers and expand if they could find willing and available labor. We also observe that, even in slow economic times, there are still vast amounts of churning and job changing that occur. Job opportunities still present themselves."

The education and health care sectors added approximately 6,500 employment opportunities in the last 12 months.

Health care accounted for the majority of the job growth, expanding employment by nearly 6 percent. Health care responds to population growth and demographic change and can breeze through slowing economic times with minimal or no adverse impact, indicated Knold.

Education is a second industry somewhat immune to the ups and downs of the economic cycle.

At the kindergarten to 12th grade level, the sector is almost completely immune to economic impacts.

Utah's surging elementary age population drives up the demand for additional teachers. As the student population climbs to higher grade levels, teaching employment expands statewide.

"We also observe that slower economies put more demand upon higher education. When job access and opportunities slow, many working-age adults choose to return to the education system as a means of riding out a slow economy and furthering their knowledge and skill base, thus increasing their attractiveness for future employment," noted Knold.

Industries like life sciences, information technology and computer software remained fairly vibrant in July. Life sciences encompass biotechnology, medical devices, research and development, pharmaceuticals and most areas related to the environment.

Occupations in the sector demand specialized education or training.

Energy or natural resources represents another robust area in Utah, particularly oil and natural gas development in the Uintah Basin, Carbon and Duchesne counties.

Coal is also a major player in the central Utah economy, but mining activity has slowed. However, few alternatives to coal currently exist and mining remains a key part of America's energy matrix.

Several industries are struggling in Utah.

Construction remains the most visible and the picture continues to darken. The industry follows a pattern of low employment in winter and peak labor force numbers in summer. But last December's construction employment exceeded the July level employment.

The situation does not appear poised to reverse, pointed out the DWS economist. With changed mortgage rates and borrowing requirements, home prices are overvalued and unaffordable for many Utahns. It will take time for the adjustments needed to correct the imbalance.

In addition, all activities in the finance industry have scaled back and the sector has shed 800 jobs statewide on a year-over-year basis. Most national analysts continue seeing banking and finance struggling to maintain solvency.

Utah's manufacturing environment is also succumbing to the national downturn. On a year-over basis, the industry added 200 jobs statewide, but has been trending downward all year, and is expected to soon move to the negative side of the ledger, maybe as soon as next month.

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