Unemployment up in Carbon and Emery counties
The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for April registered at 5.3 percent, compared to a revised 5.7 percent in March. During this time, approximately 64,300 Utahns were unemployed. In April 2002, the unemployment rate was 6.3 percent.
"This improvement in the unemployment rate doesn't necessarily signal a change in the economic trends," says Austin Sargent, regional economist for the Department of Workforce Services (DWS). "Since unemployment is a lagging indicator, we anticipate that it will continue to fluctuate until the employment picture strengthens. While there are some indications that Utah's employment situation is slowly improving, there remain more job seekers than can be absorbed by the weak economy."
In Carbon County there was a large change from April 2002 to April 2003. This year, the unemployment rate in the area was 7.4 percent, while last year during the same period it was 6.5 percent. Emery County's jump was even larger, from 8.9 percent in April of 2002 to 10.5 percent this year.
"There doesn't seem to be any specific reason for the drop in employment," says Roger Sparks, manager of the Price office of the DWS. "It's just due to the economic slowdown of the whole nation. I've never seen so few job orders or placements as we have had lately. But comparison to some other rural areas we're actually doing OK."
Utah's other primary indicator of current labor market conditions, the year over change in the number of nonfarm wage and salaried jobs slid slightly in April, though not significantly. April employment was down -0.3 percent, or 3,400 positions as compared to that measured in April 2002. March's employment measurement was revised upward to -0.1 percent from -0.7.
"While April's data may seem like a slight step backwards, we remain optimistic that Utah's job market is improving," stated Raylene Ireland, Executive Director of the Utah DWS. "The Olympic shadow continues to obscure the underlying progress we see in employment. As the Olympic shadow dissipates, we expect a clearer employment picture to emerge, reflecting increasing job opportunities."
Nationally, the April unemployment rate rose to 6.0 percent; the number of unemployed persons was 8.8 million. In April, 4.8 million persons were working part time even though they would have preferred a full-time schedule. The number of such workers increased by about 600,000 over the year. On the employment side, using not seasonally-adjusted numbers, the nation's job count slipped down 0.3 percent, its lowest reading since October of 2002. The U.S. economy more or less came to a halt in April due to the Iraq war and the SARS disease. Nationally, there are 130.3 million jobs.
The Iraq war and the SARS factors also impacted Utah's economy. Added to that is the impact of Olympic employment on Utah's data. April's numbers, while down more than March's, reflect the persistent influence of Salt Lake Organizing Committee employment of a year ago. Last April, SLOC still had approximately 1,900 workers on its payrolls as it wrapped up post-Olympic activities. Removing those temporary jobs from last April's employment count, this April's employment picture would show a slight -0.1 percent drop in employment, mirroring March's job losses.
Another factor that caused the April 2003 numbers to appear weaker was a jump in employment for April 2002. Employment in construction rose by 2,300; primarily due site preparation work related to pipelines and for other building projects. The euphoria of the success of the Olympics lingered as trade and administrative support jobs were sustained. Health care, lodging, food services and government also added positions in April 2002. Overall, total nonfarm employment added 7,600 jobs from March 2002 to April 2002, April nonfarm employment increased by 5,500 jobs over March figures.
While Utah's economy is on the road to recovery, it will not come without soft spots, such as was experienced in April Economic growth will feel like two steps forward and one step back until more of the economic over-capacity is reduced. Still, Utah's employment picture is improving and will strengthen throughout 2003.
Education and health care remains the bell-weather industry of the Utah economy, adding 3,600 jobs since last April. Government is another area of employment growth with gains at the federal, state, and local levels, while in the spring federal land-based agencies begin adding jobs. Military support jobs at Hill Air Force Base, along with new security forces, particularly at the airport also add to the growth of Federal employment. Information and financial activities also showed improvement.
The leisure and hospitality industry is showing a year-over decline of 5,400 positions, reflecting the struggles of travel and tourism related enterprises, as well as the Olympic shadow. Cutbacks at airlines and the SARS disease have added to this industry's woes.