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Front Page » January 20, 2005 » Local News » Carbon's economy concludes 2004 with declining unemployme...
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Carbon's economy concludes 2004 with declining unemployment rate

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Carbon County reported declining unemployment in December.

The local jobless rate registered at 5.4 percent last month, dropping from the 6 percent level posted in November 2004.

By comparison, Carbon County experienced a 7.30 percent jobless rate in December 2003.

At the state level, Utah's unemployment rate registered at 4.4 percent last month. The jobless rate represents the lowest level reported statewide since August 2001.

Approximately 53,700 Utahns were unemployed in December 2004, compared to 63,100 in 2003.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the year-over change in the number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs, moved slightly downward, posting 2.8 percent growth.

"The state's rate of employment growth has started to moderate slightly. This brings no cause for concern, as we anticipated that this would happen," explained Austin Sargent, Utah Department of Workforce Services economist.

"Currently, energy prices have fallen from their recent peak. But in the November and December period, they were at their peak and influencing the psychology of that time. In response to those high energy prices, we anticipated that the growth rate would moderate slightly as employers reacted to the uncertain energy-price direction. Employment growth will probably hover in this area for the next several months. But we anticipate that, by summer, the rate of growth in Utah should start to accelerate again," pointed out the DWS economist.

During the last year, the United States economy added 2.2 million employment opportunities nationwide for a growth rate of 1.7 percent.

The Utah economy added approximately 30,700 new jobs for an employment expansion rate of 2.8 percent.

The Utah additions represent about 1.4 percent of all the new jobs created in the U.S. during the last year.

Utah's economic expansion continues to be broad based, with the majority of the state's industrial sectors adding employment opportunities.

The only exception to the employment expansion experienced statewide was Utah's information sector. The sectorconsists primarily of telecommunications, cable, internet, broadcasting, software publishing and printing.

The most new jobs have been added in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. This is the state's largest industrial sector, so it's not unusual that it would also add the most new jobs.

Approximately 5,400 jobs were added within the past year. The retail trade aspect of the sector is the largest, and is a segment whose growth is largely driven by population growth. The larger the population becomes, the more selling outlets that population-base can support. So more retailers enter the market, or existing ones expand. And with this up goes employment.

Transportation is also a part of that sector and it is also adding jobs. The primary driver here is the trucking industry. A nationwide increase in economic activity brings with it the overall need to transport more goods. Utah benefits from such a need.

The health care industry continues to be an employment generator in Utah. The sector was the strongest employment arena during the economic downturn and remains near the top of the job-creation list during the economic upswing. There are reports of worker shortages in the industry, particularly nurses and various medical technicians.

Utah's construction industry bounced back, posting an employment count of 73,700 jobs for a year-over gain of 4,900 positions. Construction work can be seasonal, so it has employment peaks and valleys throughout the year. The peak is in August, the valley is in February. The peak of 77,900 jobs last August represented a construction employment high for Utah. Last year's construction employment total surpassed the previous peak of 77,000 in August 2001.

"We had anticipated that construction employment would be stronger in 2004 than seen in the previous couple of years," noted the DWS economist. "But we did not anticipate surpassing the previous employment peak. This is good news for Utah. It shows a rebounding of the economy and also some degree of pent-up demand that developed in the recent economic downturn."

Utah's manufacturing sector experienced declining employment during the last five years, particularly the last three. But 2004 was a bounce-back year and the industry currently employs approximately 116,000 workers with a gain of 3,200 jobs since December 2003.

The recession started hitting manufacturing hard in December 2000, when employment in the sector registered at 126,600.

By March 2003, manufacturing dropped to a low point of 111,300 jobs, meaning a loss of 15,300 positions in roughly a two-year span. Since then, employment has rebounded to the current 116,000 employment opportunities, representing a gain of 4,700 jobs. An added benefit to the regained jobs is the fact that the employment opportunities are not only in the lighter non-durable goods side, but also in the more heavy durable goods where the pay rates are higher, concluded the department of workforce services economist.

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