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Front Page » December 16, 2004 » Local News » Carbon County registers climbing unemployment rate in Nov...
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Carbon County registers climbing unemployment rate in November

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Carbon County's unemployment rate climbed slightly in November to reach 5.8 percent. In October, the local jobless rate registered at 5.6 percent. By comparison, Carbon County reported a 7.5 unemployment rate in November 2003.

At the state level, Utah's unemployment rate registered at 4.6 percent in November, dipping 0.7 percentage points from 5.3 percent joblessness experienced statewide last year.

Approximately 55,800 residents across the state were unemployed in November 2004, accord to the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the year-over change in the number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs, continues registering growth, moving forward at a 2.9 percent year-over pace.

October's growth rate has been revised slightly downward to 2.9 percent.

"Job growth remains satisfactory in Utah. We have good employment momentum carrying us into the high-profile holiday season. This job growth, which produces subsequent income gains, should bode well for the retail community," noted Raylene Ireland, director of the state's workforce services department.

All industrial sectors in Utah continued to grow, creating job opportunities across a wide range of occupations. The market may not be begging.

"November's growth continues portraying an adequate economic environment in Utah. Anything around 3 percent is an acceptable minimum for Utah. However, the momentum that was established at the end of last year and continued throughout this year may have peaked," commented department of workforce services senior economist Mark Knold. "Additions to the employment growth rate have probably reached their limit, at least in the immediate future."

"Higher energy prices having exerted some suppressing influence on the market. Therefore, upping the current pace of job growth in Utah is probably not going to happen until the late spring period of 2005, possibly even later. Please note that all I am talking about is a minor slowing in the rate of growth, not an end to growth. The Utah economy will continue to grow. The pace of growth will just slow through the winter months, probably falling into the 2.5 percent range," explained the department of workforce services senior economist.

Utah's construction industry posted the highest growth rate at more than 8 percent statewide in November. The activity reveals a measure of pent-up demand, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Population continued to expand in the early 2000s while economic activity did not. It currently looks like it's catchup time. Although there are other industrial areas performing better than manufacturing right now, the turnaround and growth in this sector is worth noting.

Currently, year-over employment growth is approaching 3 percent, with the addition of around 3,100 new jobs. Printing, chemical production, plastics, primary metals, fabricated metals, and transportation equipment are the primary areas for this expansion.

Health care continues to do well in Utah, as does the expansion of the professional and business services industry. The latter is experiencing some slowing in growth and reflects moderation in the number of temporary or placement agency workers that business are seeking. However, the sector is still moving along at a brisk pace.

Since November 2003, the United States economy has added 2.1 million employment opportunities nationwide, for a growth rate of 1.6 percent. The Utah economy has added approximately 31,500 new jobs, a growth rate of 2.9 percent. The Utah additions represent about 1.5 percent of all the new jobs added in the United States in the last year.

"We're heading into a new year. What are potential economic issues that could play a role in the

2005 economic performance? High energy prices always have the potential to negatively impact the economy," pointed out Knold. "I'm surprised that, up to this point, the prices at the pump aren't higher. If energy prices are going to affect us, it will likely come to a head in the first few months of the year, at the height of winter. If we dodge that bullet, don't worry about energy prices sidetracking the economy for the remainder of the year."

A second factor is the foreign trade imbalance and the falling of the dollar's value. Some are painting the falling dollar as a bad thing, but it's needed to bring some balance back into the trade ledger. The trade imbalance as a percentage of gross domestic product is now as large a percentage as the federal deficit. A falling dollar should help work that magic on the trade side, indicated Knold. A negative with the correction is the possibility of higher inflation.

A third factor centers around Asian investors' willingness to continue to finance the U.S. budget deficit.

"Our interest rates are currently low because Asian, particularly Chinese, investors are willing to take their horde of U.S. dollars earned in the trade imbalance and buy U.S. treasuries. If that flow slows, interest rates will rise and they may rise high enough to shut off the mortgage market. That would pop the housing-price bubble. Mortgage rates have been extremely low for several years, and it has resulted in many housing markets around the country being overpriced, some seriously overpriced. Rising rates will expose this bubble and it is strongly anticipated that there will be an economic fallout for some parts of the country, particularly California and the northeast. This bubble may not be exposed until 2006, but it is coming. The good news is this won't affect Utah. Our housing price-demand-supply is in good shape," concluded the state's department of workforce services economist.

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