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Front Page » October 14, 2008 » Carbon County News » Carbon economy steadies following employment slump
Published 2,149 days ago

Carbon economy steadies following employment slump


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By LYNNDA JOHNSON
Sun Advocate editor

After tragedy struck Crandall Canyon mine, Carbon County's economy slumped at the conclusion of 2007. Local employment fell 1.8 percent compared to 2006's jobless level.

However, several of Carbon's socio-economic indicators showed improvements. Carbon's population growth registered on the positive side of the spectrum and the county reported a steady employment rate.

But as long as Carbon remains dependent on natural resource extraction as a primary economic driver, the county may have to weather continued economic turbulence, pointed out the latest report compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

In 2007, Carbon's population climbed by 226 residents. However, the 1.2 percent increase placed Carbon among the slowest growing counties in the state. According to department of workforce services data, 2007 marked the second year of positive net in-migration, with 104 people relocating to Carbon. In-migration accounted for nearly one-half of the population growth experienced in the county.

In addition, the number of permits issued for new homes in Carbon County jumped during 2007. The 110 permits had a value of nearly $17 million, representing a significant increase compared to the previous year, pointed out the department of workforce services.

On the negative side of the economic spectrum, Carbon County's employment expansion rate slipped in 2007 after posting strong growth for two years.

Compared with 2006, the county witnessed an employment drop of 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 in the region after the Crandall Canyon disaster, indicated the department or workforce services.

Several of Carbon County's major industries reported job losses between 2006 and 2007.

The local professional and business services sector reported the most severe impact, dropping 89 positions.

In addition, Carbon's hard hit manufacturing, construction and mining industries all posted double-digit losses.

However, several Carbon County industries managed to post positive employment gains.

Private education and health services added 21 jobs in the county. Leisure and hospitality also reported an increase of 20 positions.

Carbon's unemployment rate managed to remain relatively low at the conclusion of 2007. The local unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percent to 3.6 percent.

Despite the local area's relative stability, dropping unemployment in other counties pushed Carbon to the sixth highest rate in the state for the year.

An important indicator of Carbon's economic health focuses on the performance of the county's average monthly wage.

Nominal wages have increased steadily during the last five years. However, real inflation adjusted wages have been mixed.

After 2006's 4.7 percent increase, real wages climbed by only 1.9 percent last year.

The situation marks a significant slowdown, but remains in line with Carbon County's employment and economic history, indicated the department of workforce services.

At the state level, Utah's unemployment rate has been on the rise recently, but is still registers in the historic-low range, measuring 3.2 percent in mid-2007. The situation suggests a fully-employed labor force, resulting in strong upward pressure on wages.

In addition, Utah's population was estimated at almost 2.7 million last year, representing a 3.2 percent increase from 2006. Due to a high birth rate, the state's population consistently grows.

Within the last 15 years, in-migration has remained consistent even during the early 2000 period of a rare Utah employment recession. In the past, slow economic periods produced net out-migration in Utah. Hispanic in-migration has been the changing factor in the post-1990 period.

Utah has the nation's youngest population, with a median age of 28.5. The national median is 36.4. The next closest state is Texas, with a median age of 33.2.

Forty-eight percent of the participants in Utah's labor force are younger than 35 years of age. No other state breaks 40 percent mark.

Utah stands in stark contrast to the baby boomer dominated national labor force.

Utah shows little vulnerability to baby boomer retirement since the initial portion of the cohort only accounts for 9.7 percent of the state's labor force.

Starting in mid-2007, Utah's economy has witnessed a major slowdown during the last 12 months.

Whereas last year's employment growth was around 4 percent, the expansion rate currently registers less than 1 percent and analysts expect the level to fall below zero.

The construction industry has played a major role in the state's employment reversal, noted the department of workforce services.

The remainder of Utah's economy remains relatively strong, with some peripheral slowing. Utah has averaged 3.3 percent yearly employment growth since 1960. Only four states have posted better performances.

A rare employment recession occurred in 2002, but 1964 was the last time Utah encountered fewer jobs in a succeeding year. But the volume of the construction job losses continues to darken the statewide employment picture, concluded the department of workforce services report.

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