Carbon County employment, economy rebounding in 2002
Carbon County appears to be recovering from the impact of the Willow Creek Mine tragedy that reverberated through the local economy.
In the first half of 2002, jobs rebounded in the county. The expansion has resulted in a drop in the local unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate registered at 5.6 percent in October, only slightly higher than the state's 5.1 percent average, pointed out a local economic perspective recently developed by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Non-farm employment opportunities jumped in Carbon County during the first two quarters of 2002 compared to last year. Non-farm jobs rose 3.4 percent in first quarter and 6.5 percent in second quarter.
A rebound of approximately 180 employment opportunities in coal mining helped boost the Carbon County economy, indicated the workforce services report.
Service production jobs increased in trade, health care and hospitality.
Goods production employment was robust, adding more than 200 positions in the local labor market.
Coal mining reversed direction by adding jobs, providing a needed shot in the arm for Carbon County's economy.
Employment also expanded in the local fabricated metals manufacturing sector.
Construction jobs in the county climbed in the first quarter as new commercial buildings and heavy construction projects, including road and bridges improvements, were undertaken.
Following the Willow Creek mine tragedy in 2001, Carbon County's economy went into a tailspin.
However, Carbon's economy rebounded in 2002, posting a broad recovery in goods and services based industries.
The service producing industries - including trade, transportation, information, recreation, lodging and food services, expanded during the first two quarters.
Health care and social assistance positions expanded, while more than 100 jobs were added at local merchandise stores.
Food service employment rose and wholesale trade reported healthy growth.
On the downside were trucking and rail transportation, which decreased slightly.
Local government also cut employment positions, primarily in education as enrollments declined and budgets tightened.
Construction activity, as measured by permit authorizations in the county, increased dramatically.
The total value of permit authorized construction jumped 62 percent through the first six months of 2002.
Housing starts were up slightly, though residential valuations in the county fell 37 percent.
Non-residential activity registered significant expansion, jumping from approximately $1 million in the first six months of 2001 to $3.4 million in 2002.
The construction of a $1.5 million industrial building constitutes the primary reason for the sharp increase, explained the workforce services economic perspective.
The valuation of renovation work surged in Carbon County, due mainly to a $1.6 million retail store remodeling project.
Gross taxable sales improved 6.8 percent in the first half of 2002.
Retail sales have been strong, particularly at merchandise stores and automobile dealer-ships operating at various locations in the county.
Construction, mining and manufacturing sales also rose, while services sales were down. Declines in repair services accounted for the decrease.
As the nation slowly recovers from the effects of the recession, residents of Carbon County will continue to witness an upward trend in jobs throughout the remainder of the current year, projected the department of workforce services.
The outlook, however, remains murky and depends on mining sustaining jobs in the local coal industry.
Carbon County's economy is steadily becoming more diverse.
The diversity will help sustain the county during slow economic times, concluded the report drafted by workforce services regional economist Austin Sargent.