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Front Page » March 14, 2002 » Local News » Analysts predicting economic rebound
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Analysts predicting economic rebound

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Utah's jobless rate drifted up to 5.3 percent in February and claimants for unemployment insurance followed suit by continuing to increase statewide.

Nevertheless, state and federal analysts report significant economic improvements throughout the United States.

At the state level, the number of initial unemployment insurance claims filed across Utah registered at 2,356 for the four-week period ending March 12. Weeks claimed totaled 26,753, an increase of 51 percent from last year's 17,729.

Temporary hiring for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games appears to have prevented the number of unemployed state residents from climbing higher, points the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

However, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee has started laying off staff members. Last week, close to 20 percent of SLOC's full-time paid employees lost jobs.

After the 2002 Paralympics conclude on March 16, an additional 275 staff members will be let go, negatively impacting Utah's labor market. When the Olympic-related events wrap up, 1,000 full-time SLOC staff members will be searching for employment positions, pointed out the workforce services department.

Olympic-related estimates compiled by the organizing committee include:

•1.5 million people viewed the Olympic Torch relay through 46 states during the 65-day period.

Utah made 3,600 business contacts at relay business receptions in 10 cities.

•Among the visitors were 10,600 journalists, 325 to 350 investors and venture capitalists along with leaders from 77 foreign countries.

•84 international events co-hosted by the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development involved 18,400 participants.

On the national scene, the unemployment rate in the United States slipped to 5.5 percent in February - the lowest level since last October.

After slashing payrolls for six consecutive months, American businesses added 66,000 new workers flashing the strongest signal to date that the country's first recession in a decade may be concluding.

Orders to U.S. factories rose by 1.6 percent in January, lifted by stronger demand for cars, computers and machinery.

The situation provides evidence that the battered manufacturing sector is turning a corner.

The advance followed a 0.7 percent rise in December and represented the third increase in the last four months, indicated the U.S. Commerce Department.

The productivity of American workers rocketed past expectations in the final three months of last year to post the biggest increase sincesecond quarter 2000.

Productivity or worker output of goods and services per hour outside the farm sector jumped at a 5.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, noted the U.S. Labor Department. The increase surpassed the 4.5 percent increase expected by economic analysts.

Last week, Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan told the U.S. Congress that strong economic evidence indicates that the country is recovering from the recession starting in March 2001.

Offering a differing analysis, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill announced last week that the nation's economy remained on solid ground and had not suffered a recession in 2001.

The treasury chief noted that, while gross domestic product contracted during third quarter last year, the latest federal government statistics show expansion resumed in the fourth quarter.

The situation virtually means a popular definition of recession, as being at least six months of declining output, was not met, noted O'Neill.

Activity in the U.S. services sector surged in February 2002, reaching the highest level since November 2000. Analysts indicate that the surge strongly suggests a broad-based recovery is beginning to gain momentum.

The Institute for Supply Management confirmed that the industry trade group's monthly non-manufacturing index exceeded market expectations and jumped to 58.7 in February. By comparison, the index dipped to 49.6 in January, lower the key 50 level.

At least 125,000 American workers joined the nation's employment ranks due to mass layoffs lasting 30 or more days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a recently released U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Employers in 33 states cited the attacks in 430 separate layoffs impacting more than 50 workers per company, noted the labor statistics bureau.

The majority of the layoffs in question occurred within weeks of the attacks, with job losses tapering off since Sept. 11.

Employee benefits comprised more than one-third of the total cost of company payrolls in 2000, according to a nationwide study conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Health insurance constituted the highest single benefit expenditure. Benefits cost American businesses an additional 37.5 percent on top of wages - an average of $16,617 per employee, indicates the chamber study.

Retailers posted better than expected sales in February 2002, another signal that the U.S. economy is rebounding, concluded the Utah workforce agency.

Discount retail outlets ruled the market as thrifty consumers sought bargains at all locations across the United States.

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