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Front Page » March 5, 2009 » Carbon County News » Carbon's economy generates expanding employment levels
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Carbon's economy generates expanding employment levels

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Carbon County's economy created expanding employment levels in January, while Utah posted a negative statewide job growth rate

The county recorded a 7.3 percent employment growth rate in January, with 10,046 workers actively participating in the local labor force.

In January 2008, Carbon County reported 9,365 local employees, indicated the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

At the state level, Utah's non-farm wage and salaried job count contracted by 1.6 percent in January.

Approximately 20,400 jobs were removed from the Utah economy during the last year, lowering total wage and salary employment to 1,224,100, based on statistics calculated by the federal labor bureau.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the unemployment rate, increased to 4.6 percent in January.

By comparison, the latest data indicate that Carbon County concluded 2008 with an average annual 4.3 percent jobless rate.

Approximately 64,300 Utahns were considered unemployed in January 2009. In January 2008, the state's unemployment rate was 3.2 percent.

At the national level, the United States unemployment rate continued to climb and reached 7.6 percent.

"We are continuing to move through what we hope will be the deepest portion of this economic downturn," commented Mark Knold, department of workforce services economist. "Layoffs and plant closures are adding up and will continue to take their toll."

"The job market is still progressing through that phase where things will continue to worsen before a stabilization phase finally takes hold," pointed out Knold. "We are seeing this deterioration firsthand in the number of laid off workers filing for unemployment insurance claims. The volume of those claims began to move upward in December, but that volume took a stunning leap in January, pushing claims to historic highs."

"If those high claim numbers were to ease off in the next month or so, then the economy should likely pan out as has been forecasted for 2009. However, if they remain disturbingly high beyond the next month, then have to revisit the expected depth and duration of this downturn. Although a sizable federal stimulus package is about to move into the economy, the path for the first half of this year has largely already been set," noted the DWS economist

To date, the economic slowdown is hitting Utah's male workers harder than women due to the makeup of the industries impacted by the recession, according to the DWS representative.

Comprised of 80 percent male employees, construction has been the hardest hit industry, dropping 14,000 jobs statewide in the last year.

Manufacturing, composed of 70 percent male workers, has been the next hardest hit industry. Utah's manufacturing sector has shed about 8,880 positions since 2009, with approximately one-half of the job losses occurring between December and January.

"These industries affected aren't unusual or necessarily unique to this downturn, although the construction aspect might be more severe than in past recessions. In recessions, these two hard-hat industries are generally prime candidates for job losses and they just happen to be male-centric industries. Female workers have a concentration in both the education and health care industries and, to date, those are the industries least impacted by this downturn," explained Knold

The department of workforce services anticipates additional job losses in Utah's construction sector throughout 2009.

To date, the majority of the losses have been on the residential side. New home building has fallen to a disproportionately low level statewide, but economists do not expect deeper drops in 2009.

"That implies the job losses that have already occurred on the residential side have largely run their course," noted Knold. "The anticipated additional construction job losses will now come out of the non-residential or commercial side. That aspect of construction in Utah hit historic highs of permit value approved in 2007 and 2008 - two years running. Even in a good economy, Utah was destined to descend from that high non-residential volume. Throw a recession in the mix and the decline will now be more severe."

"Still, non-residential construction is not as labor intensive as residential construction. Yes, the industry will continue to lose jobs in 2009, but the rate of job loss will probably stabilize and even start to decelerate as the latter half of the year develops," added the DWS economist.

On the positive side of the economic spectrum Utah's natural resources, education, health care and government sectors have expanded payrolls during the last year.

However, retail trade and the professional-business services industries have dropped 1,400 and 1,700 positions respectively.

In addition, the state's leisure and hospitality industry posted a noticeable employment decrease, reporting 3,900 job losses during the 12-month period between January 2008 and 2009.

Initial unemployment claims activity jumped significantly in December, then skyrocketed statewide through January into February.

"There has been some moderation recently, but the claims activity is still uncomfortably high. When viewing claims activities by the industries the workers came from, the most disturbing aspect is that all industrial sectors showed an up-tick in claims filed, even against the health care and education industries. Activities in those areas should catch the attention of an economy watcher as a troublesome sign. Those industries have been consistently dynamic and growing areas, but to see even a small amount of economic weakening in those industries adds further cause for concern," concluded the department of workforce services representative.

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