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Front Page » June 7, 2005 » Local News » Utah considers increasing state's minimum wage
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Utah considers increasing state's minimum wage

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Utah Power customers residing in Carbon County should not expect any special concessions that would lower monthly electricity bills after MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company takes control of PacifiCorp.

In fact, local customers will likely pay more if PacifiCorp sticks to the company's 10-year building plan, indicated the latest Trendlines report released by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

On a more positive note, Carbon County residents earning the minimum wage have been making $5.15 an hour since 1997, but that could change as a result of a new look at the issue by Gov. Jon Huntsman.

"Even though I'm a good Republican, I'm a little bit concerned that during the course of (seven) years, we've seen no adjustment in the minimum wage," the governor said. "I'm open to some recommendations."

Ending May 28, the four-week average of unemployment insurance initial claims filed at locations across Utah registered at 1,219. The number represents a decrease of 8 percent from the four-week average of 1,328 filing reported last year. The number of all initial unemployment benefit claims filed during the week was 1,146. Weeks claims numbered 10,317, decreasing by 15 percent from 12,157 last year.

At the national level, employers throttled back hiring in May, boosting jobs by only 78,000, reported the U.S. Labor Department. The most sluggish pace of payroll expansion in nearly two years dramatized the erratic behavior of the nation's job market.

Despite the sluggish growth in new jobs, the U.S. Labor Department's newest snapshot of the jobs picture in the notion showed that the civilian unemployment rate actually dipped fractionally last month - to 5.2 percent. The level was down a notch from April's 5.2 percent jobless rate and was the lowest overall since September 2001.

Orders to U.S. factories advanced by 0.9 percent in April, the fastest clip experienced in five months.

The U.S. Commerce Department said factory orders rose in April as demand for durable goods posted a solid 1.9 percent gain, the first increase in four months, led by strength in demand for autos and aircrafts.

The gains offset a 0.2 percent decline in orders for nondurable goods, items not expected to last three years, explained the department of workforce services.

U.S. consumer confidence rose in May with concerns about jobs and the economy easing. The U.S. Conference Board's gauge of sentiment rose to 102.2 from a revised 97.5 in April. In recent years, however, the correlation between confidence and retail sales has weakened, with consumers buying cars and homes even as they tell surveys things are getting worse.

The U.S. Labor Department confirmed that business productivity increased at a 2.9 percent pace nationwide in the first quarter, an upward revision from an initially reported 2.6 percent gain. But worker compensation was also moving ahead faster than reported a month ago, leading to large upward adjustments to unit labor costs, a key inflation pressure gauge that measures labor costs for any given unit of production.

The first-time claims for state unemployment aid climbed to 350,000 nationwide in the week ending May 28, increasing from a revised 325,000 for the prior seven-day period. That was the highest reading since late March.

An analyst with the U.S. Labor Department said comments from individual states indicated "a good portion" of the rise was due to temporary auto industry layoffs, unrelated to regular summer plant shutdowns for retooling, which take place in July, noted the workforce services Trendlines report.

U.S. retail sales rose modestly in May as discount retailers reported growth even as unusually cool weather in parts of the country slowed spending on seasonal goods, while some teen-oriented retailers posted soaring gains.

Some luxury chains also blew past Wall Street expectations, as the market for high-end merchandise continues to boom.

More states are raising minimum wages, pushing hourly rates above $7 in some and shrinking the role of the federal standard, which has not increased in eight years. 11 states have raised minimum wage rates since January 2004.

Increased competition, the search for markets and pressure to keep down prices is pushing biotechnology companies to move beyond national boundaries to overcome obstacles in one region by identifying different opportunities, according to a report by Ernst & Young.

The report indicated that, as companies seek to increase efficiency and productivity, the businesses are looking to countries with cheaper labor and large potential consumer markets, concluded the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

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