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Front Page » July 22, 2003 » Local News » Utah workforce service agency compiles state, national ec...
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Utah workforce service agency compiles state, national economic data

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Carbon County's jobless rate climbed to 8 percent last month, while statewide unemployment decline one percentage point to 5.2 percent in June.

Ending July 5, the four-week average of initial unemployment insurance claims filed at locations across the state registered at 1,703, indicated the latest Trendlines data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

The total represents an increase of 2 percent from last year's 1,670 four-week average.

The number of all initial claims for unemployment benefits filed by Utahns registered at 1,741.

Weeks claimed by displaced Utah workers numbered 17,438 statewide.

Nevertheless, home sales across the state have managed to hold steady during the first six months of 2003, dipping only slightly while the average purchase price increased, pointed out the department of workforce services.

The average price for purchasing a private residence in Utah increased to $169,734, up $1,041 from last year, according to the Wasatch Front Regional Multiple Listing Service.

In addition, the state's per student spending increased 5.5 percent last year despite Utah's ongoing budget woes. But the state still remains near the bottom of the teacher pay barrel nationally, noted the workforce services department.

During the last 10 years, Utah's total per student expenditures have climbed 5.8 percent annually, exceeding the national average of 4.5 percent and the annualized inflation rate of 2.6 percent.

A decade of economic prosperity fattened the average Utah teacher's salary by 44 percent, the largest increase posted in all but three states nationwide.

However, Utah educators fear tougher times will flatten the salary increase trend.

Between 1991-1992 and 2001-2002, the average educator salary in Utah jumped from $26,524 to $38,153, a percentage gain trailing only Idaho, Georgia and the District of Columbia, confirmed a recent survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers.

At the national level, the U.S. Labor Department reported that initial claims for unemployment rose by 5,000 to 439,000 during the week ending July 5.

For 21 consecutive weeks, the level of unemployment insurance benefit claims filed nationwide has exceeded the 400,000 mark, the level economic analysts traditionally associate with a sluggish job market.

In addition, a sharp jump in energy costs pushed U.S. wholesale prices up while the gauge of core inflation eased slightly, indicated the U.S. Labor Department.

The producer price index rose 0.5 percent in June. A significant portion of the gain can be pinned on a steep 3.4 percent increase in energy prices. The index measures prices paid at the farm and factory gate.

Excluding food and energy, the core producer price index declined 0.1 percent.

The slight decrease in the core producer proce indexreflects an absence of underlying inflation pressures that could keep alive fears of deflation - a broad fall in consumer prices, continued the federal labor department.

The cost of purchasing food products at the wholesale level rose 0.4 percent nationwide last month, according to federal agencies.

Consumer credit jumped $7.3 billion from April to June for an annual rate of 5 percent, noted the U.S. Federal Reserve. The jump followed a $7.9 billion or 5.4 percent borrowing increase between April and March.May's expansion pushed up total consumer debt to $1.76 trillion.

Low mortgage rates have helped make the housing market the strongest segment of the nation's weak economy. In fact, the U.S. housing market has experienced three consecutive record years, explained the Utah workforce agency.

Even more important to the economy, refinancing has made up more than 70 percent of all mortgage applications submitted during the last 11 months, pointed out the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Bascially, millions of Americans have tapped into home equity in order to increase personal cash flows.

U.S. import prices also rose more than expected last month as the costs of petroleum and non-petroleum imports gained, noted the federal labor agency. Import prices increased 0.8 percent in June.

After falling for three straight months, the cost of petroleum imports climbed 4.7 percent and non-petroleum import prices gained 0.5 percent.

Non-fuel imports rose 0.4 percent, representing the largest monthly gain on record dating to December 2001.

The U.S. trade deficit remained near record levels in May at $41.84 billion. American exports struggled to expand and record demand for foreign oil helped push imports slightly higher, reported the U.S. Commerce Department.

Inventories at U.S. wholesalers unexpectedly fell for a second consecutive month in May as sales sagged nationwide, added the commerce department.

Wholesale stocks dipped 0.3 percent as inventories of durable goods meant to last three or more years and non-durable products slipped.

Wholesale sales slipped 0.5 percent on the heels of April's 2.5 percent decrease, representing the largest drop recorded by the U.S. Commerce Department.

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