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Front Page » September 18, 2008 » Carbon County News » Carbon experiences employment growth
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Carbon experiences employment growth

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After struggling during the final five months of 2007, Carbon County's labor market perked up in first quarter 2008.

Compared to last year, the county watched local employment expand 1.6 percent for a yearly expansion of 149 positions.

An increase in coal mining activity represented the primary catalyst for the rise in economic activity.

Carbon County posted additional employment gains in transportation and health care services, indicated Utah Department of Workforce Services economist Michael Hanni.

But losses in the other services category, the local professional and technical industries, retail trade and information basically negated the sector's gains posted in Carbon County in first quarter 2008.

Explaining a second economic indicator, Hanni pointed out that the department of workforce services releases an annual series of occupational wage estimates for Utah and several local regions in conjunction with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One area included in the report is the eastern region encompassing the seven counties from Daggett to San Juan as well as Wasatch for sampling reasons.

The 2007 data painted an interesting picture of the unique corner of the state, noted the DWS economist.

While the report estimated the average annual wage in the eastern region at $33,910 - significantly less than the state's $37,080 - the overall look obscured several trends under the surface.

The program surveyed roughly 3,500 employers across Utah to generate a statistically valid snapshot of the statewide economy.

However, there are a couple of subtle caveats to remember when working with the data, explained Hanni. First, the information is collected from a survey, which can be flawed, and the results can deviate from reality. Second, a considerable time lag is involved between gathering, cleaning, processing and publishing the data collected in a survey. But despite the challenges, the DWS and BLS data represent the most comprehensive wage information available in the nation.

One way to check the pulse of wages in the local economy is to look at top paying occupations, continued Hanni. The top 10 occupations with highest average annual earnings in 2007 included chief executives at $128,940, followed by pharmacists at $103,880, family and general practitioners at $102,210, petroleum engineers at $97,610, mining and geological engineers at $87,070, financial managers at $84,050, underground mining loading machine operators at $75,690, electrical engineers at $74,550, general and operations managers at $74,030 and environmental scientists or specialists at $73,380.

"Looking at this list, it is clear that the old refrain education pays holds just as true in the eastern counties of the state as elsewhere as all 10 occupations require significant levels of higher education and specialized training," noted the DWS economist. "However, it is possible for individuals working in other occupations to make more - much more in some cases- than individuals in these 10 occupations. This is due to the fact that the OES wage estimates are based on a 2,080-hour work year. Thus, if a welder were to work 80-hour weeks, they could in theory make more than a pharmacist who worked only 40 hours a week."

A second way to dissect the data is to compare the eastern counties' wages with the state as a whole. Survey data are subject to a certain margin of error and it is possible to have two estimates that appear different. But in reality, the estimates are not statistically different. The data for Utah and the eastern counties revealed some interesting tidbits.

Utah's eastern counties posted statistically lower wages than the state in management, business and financial operations, computer and mathematical and life, physical and social science occupations. However, the eastern counties are not home to the headquarters of major corporations are not headquartered in the region. While individuals from the area are represented in the occupational groupings, they frequently make less than people working in the state's urban core.

Due to the eastern region's strong mining and support industries, several occupational categories perform exceptionally well. Production occupations reported statistically higher wages than statewide counterparts. Transportation and material moving occupations - especially mining conveyor operators and tenders did very well when compared to the state.

"The one grouping you would expect to do exceptionally well, construction and extraction occupations, were indeed statistically higher than the state average, but only slightly. This quirk in the data can be explained quite simply. The area's vibrant mining industry makes up the bulk of the state's mining industry, hence there isn't much difference in the wage estimates of the two areas," concluded the regional DWS economist.

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