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Front Page » May 20, 2004 » Local News » Unemployment rate drops in Carbon area
Published 4,154 days ago

Unemployment rate drops in Carbon area

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Carbon County's unemployment rate dropped one percentage point in April.

The local jobless rate registered at 5.7 percent in April, decreasing from 6.7 percent in March 2004.

In April 2003, Carbon County experienced a 7.9 percent unemployment rate.

Neighboring Emery County posted a 9.1 percent jobless rate in April, down from 10.3 percent in March 2004.

Emery County reported an 11.2 percent unemployment rate in April 2003.

At the state level, the April unemployment rate registered at 4.5 percent, representing a slight decrease from March's 4.8 percent.

Approximately 53,500 residents at locations across the state were unemployed in April 2004. Last year, 68,500 Utahns were jobless when the statewide unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent.

Utah's second primary indicator of current labor market conditions, the year-over change in the number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs, continued moving upward, reaching 1.5 percent for 15,900 more jobs than April 2003.

"This continues the momentum of employment gains that began in earnest in December. It's quite encouraging to see employment gains in nearly all industries, including manufacturing. That's a reversal from its rough ride of the past three years," noted Raylene Ireland, Utah Department of Workforce Services director.

Employment gains of 1.5 percent translate to an increase of 15,900 jobs statewide compared to April 2003.

"There is little doubt that the Utah economy is growing and that job creation is happening. It should continue to grow as this year progresses," indicated Mark Knold, DWS senior economist.

"There are some troubling indicators that could undermine the economy's strength though, like rising oil prices and a falling stock market. Both of these events could take their toll if they develop into long-term issues. High energy costs have too often been a trigger for economic downturns. It would be a shame if the current economic rebound lost its punch because of high energy costs," added the DWS economist.

Utah last experienced employment gains of the same magnitude in 2001. The gains are positive news, but remain below the state's long-term history of producing 2.5 percent or higher employment expansion, explained the workforce services officials. For the Utah economy to be generating 2.5 percent employment growth would require the emergence of 26,700 jobs. Utah has accomplished the feat in the past, but the state has experienced economic stagnation for the past three years.

A strong positive within Utah's current employment growth is nearly all industrial sectors are adding jobs. Only the financial sector dropped employment - 100 positions, continued the workforce services officials.

Education-health and professional-business services along with leisure-hospitality are the three strongest employment growth areas in the state. Combined, the sectors accounted for 11,100 new year-over employment opportunities.

Education and health services added jobs through the heart of the recent recession. The professional-business services and leisure-hospitality sectors were negatively impacted by the recession, but have started adding jobs at a respectable clip, according to the DWS officials.

Construction added 1,400 jobs last month compared to April 2003. The majority of the employment gains in the industry were tied to residential housing construction and remodeling projects with commercial construction posting minimal growth.

Employment opportunities in Utah's government sector expanded by 1,300 positions during the one-year period from April 2003 to April 2004. Local government entities accounted for the majority of the job growth.

Government represents a major employment industry in Utah, pointed out the department of workforce services officials. Along with education and health services, government managed to post job growth during the recent recession.

"A rising employment trend that could produce employment gains around 2.5 percent in Utah next year is still a good, but not a sure bet," noted Knold. "One obstacle that could thwart this goal would be a stock market that falls below 10,000 for an extended period of time. That would be enough to zap the energy and momentum out of the nascent U.S. employment growth. This, in turn, would slow Utah's economic performance."

"Continued rising gasoline prices could be another factor. Gasoline prices are as high as they have ever been. But when adjusted for inflation, they are not the highest burden they have ever been. It appears that the American consumer is currently absorbing this higher gasoline price blow and is not reducing driving plans or automobile buying habits. But if prices go higher and hold there, then a change is possible," noted the DWS economist.

"History has shown that these adjustments usually result in economic downturns. These adjustments have negative effects in the short run, but can have long-term benefits of spurring energy conservation, improved gas mileage requirements and a seriousness about alternate energy sources away from oil," continued Knold.

"But OPEC is also aware of these alternatives and they will only allow oil prices to rise so far. The Saudis are the most adept at recognizing this and their recent announcement that they are prepared to increase oil production to keep the world's economies from negatively reacting to the recent higher oil prices signals that the oil price run-up could be close to topping out. Don't look for it to reverse, just to stabilize," concluded Knold.

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