Labor market rises in Carbon after '07 struggles
After struggling through 2007, Carbon County's labor market perked up in first quarter 2008.
Compared with last year, Carbon witnessed a 1.6 percent employment increase and the creation of 149 jobs in the first quarter 2008, noted Michael Hanni, regional economist with the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Increasing coal mining activity represented the primary catalyst for the local economic expansion.
But job losses in professional and technical services, retail trade and the information sector negated the employment gains posted by Carbon County in the transportation industry and private health care services, continued Hanni.
After tragedy struck the Crandall Canyon mine, Carbon's economy slumped and employment in the county fell 1.8 percent compared with 2006, indicated the latest labor market and demographic report released by the department of workforce services.\
However, several of Carbon's socio-economic indicators showed improvements.
Carbon's population climbed by 226 residents in 2007, but the 1.2 percent year-over increase placed the county among the slowest growing areas in the state.
For the second year, Carbon reported positive in-migration at 104 people. Thus, in-migration accounted for nearly one-half of the county population growth.
After two years of strong job growth, Carbon County slipped into negative territory in 2007.
Compared with 2006, the county saw employment drop by 170 positions.
The 1.8 percent decline represented a fairly sharp contraction across the economy in response to the unprecedented closures and shutdowns of coal mines, pointed out the DWS report.
"It should come as no surprise that several of the county's major industries suffered job losses over the year," pointed out the DWS overview report. "The most severe of these was in professional and business services, where 89 positions were lost."
"Also hard hit were manufacturing, construction and mining - all posting double-digit losses. However, amid these declines, some industries did post positive gains," added the DWS report.
Private education and health services added 21 employment opportunities, while leisure and hospitality created 20 positions in the local labor force.
Even with the year-over contraction in employment in the county, the jobless rate remained low. The unemployment rate inched up one-10th of a percent to 3.6 percent for 2007.
"However, this change is, for all intents and purposes, a statistical non-event. While this stability was welcome - especially given the loss of jobs in the county - dropping unemployment rates in other counties pushed Carbon County to the sixth highest rate in the state for the year," indicated the DWS report.
Another important indicator of Carbon County's economic health is the performance of the county's average monthly wage.
Nominal wages have increased steadily during the last five years. But after 2006s 4.7 percent increase, real inflation adjusted wages in Carbon County climbed by only 1.9 percent. The real wage performance marked a significant slow down, but stayed in line with the county's previous history, explained the DWS report.
As long as Carbon remains dependent on natural resource extraction as a primary economic driver, the county may have to weather continued turbulence in the future, concluded the latest report compiled by the department of workforce services.