Carbon jobless rate up, but less than neighbors
Compared to other counties in Utah, Carbon County could be worse off when it comes to unemployment.
When the recession started to hit the country in late 2007, the unemployment rate in Carbon County was 4.6 percent, according to data from the Utah Department of Workforce Services website. As of April, the unemployment rate in Carbon County is at 7.5 percent.
While that number is high, other areas in Eastern Utah are hurting more than Carbon County. John Krantz, Eastern region economist with the Department of Workforce Services, said that counties such as Uintah and Grand are suffering from higher unemployment rates. Uintah County was hit the hardest due to the amount of oil production jobs lost in the area, Krantz said.
"When the oil prices collapsed, jobs started to disappear," Krantz said. "Some people who came to the jobs from another state left and went looking elsewhere for employment."
While Carbon County's unemployment rate is lower compared to other Utah counties, time is beginning to catch up. The recession, which did not hit Utah as hard and as quickly as the rest of the country, is finally catching up as some fourth quarter percentages are showing an effect on Carbon County, Krantz said.
In the fourth quarter of 2009, Carbon County's unemployment rate began to hover around 8 percent, compared to over 5 percent at the start of the year. While the workforce has increased in the county, the unemployment rate has been higher in the 1990s.
In February 1992, the unemployment rate in the county reached an all-time high of 10.1 percent. The rate stayed above 7 percent for over 20 months before falling to 6.8 percent in October 1993, according to Workforce Services data.
Meanwhile to the south, Emery County has shown some signs of growth in the area, Krantz said. Other than being neighboring counties, Emery and Carbon County unemployment rates both tend to be near the state average.
Natural resources such as coal are helping keep unemployment rates low in the county due to the jobs they provide, Krantz said. "Coal is a very reliable resource and in turn it's been a pretty constant job source," he said. "Coal mining will continue to be an important part of the area because it is the cheapest energy source available and it's not going to be completely replaced anytime soon. It will be a main part of the economy for a long time ahead."
With a recession, output typically starts increasing when the country is pulling out of the recession. While employment then begins to pick up, it can sometimes come much later, Krantz said.
With the high amount of job losses in Carbon County, Utah and nationwide, going back to school is almost becoming a necessity for people looking for jobs today, said Connie Blaine, labor market information specialist with Workforce Services. Due to advancements in technology and and cutting costs wherever possible, jobs opportunities in assembly lines and factories are not as readily available as they once were.
"Education pays, so people should try to get the most that they can," Blaine said. "A high school education doesn't guarantee anything anymore, so a college education has become very important."
One of the main questions facing Utah right now is whether the recession is ending for the state. Krantz said that the state is projected to have "miniscule growth" below 1 percent through the rest of the year.
"We had a massive recession (nationwide), but we will come out of it eventually," he said. "We should see a little growth through the year and it will probably take one whole year before the economy in Utah starts to grow again and more jobs are added."