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Carbon County continues to register climbing employment opportunities

Despite December's layoff of UtahAmerican Energy coal miners, Carbon County continued to experience employment growth.

According to the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Carbon County's economy created more than 500 jobs during the last year for a 6.3 percent expansion rate.

In December 2006, local employment opportunities registered at 9,827 compared to the 9,249 jobs reported by the county in December 2005.

At the state level, Utah's number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs remains strong during the last year with an increase of 4.7 percent reported in December 2006.

Approximately 55,700 employment opportunities were created in the Utah economy in the last 12 months, raising total wage and salary employment to 1,241,000 statewide.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the unemployment rate, registered 2.6 percent in last month, down from the 4 percent statewide jobless figure reported in December 2005.

Approximately 34,400 Utahns were unemployed in December 2006 compared to 51,000 in December 2005.

"We're starting to see the slowing in the Utah economy that we anticipated due to the extremely low unemployment rate," commented Mark Knold, department of workforce services economist. "The economy can only grow as rapidly as the supply of available labor will allow. With Utah's unemployment rate this low, the labor supply is extremely restricted and is acting as a dampening factor upon economic growth instead of an enhancer."

"The bottom line is that growth will slow, but it will still be solid job growth. To the consumer and business on the street, street, it will feel like no change at all. Jobs will be available, wage growth will continue and labor will remain tight," explained Knold.

At the national level, the United States' unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.5 percent in December 2006.

Since December 2005, the U.S. economy added 1.9 million jobs nationwide for a growth rate of 1.4 percent.

The approximately 55,700 additional employment opportunities created in Utah represent about 2.9 percent of all the jobs added at locations across the U.S. in the last year. Utah comprises less than 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce, noted the DWS economist.

As has been the case for the prior two years, all employment sectors in Utah continued to expand last month.

The growth ranged from 13,400 jobs in construction to 1,100 positions in the small other services sector.

"One thing to note is that the rate of growth is starting to recede," pointed out the department of workforce services economist. "Prior to this point, the rate had been increasing for the past 41 months. This signals that, in terms of the rate of employment growth, we have reached and surpassed the top of the business cycle. Growth from here forward will occur at a diminishing pace"

According to Knold, the slowing of the state's economy has already started to happen. And the slowdown centers around two industries - construction and professional-business services.

"Ironically, these are the two industry leaders in the current expansion and remain the two sectors that have added the most new jobs over the past year," noted the department of workforce services economist. "But the rate of their employment growth has peaked and is moderating."

For example, Knold explained that the construction industry started adding jobs at locations across Utah in December 2003.

The rate at which construction employment has expanded has increased steadily, with the industry creating 5,000 jobs in 2004 and accounting for 9,000 employment opportunities statewide in 2005.

The peak in the construction sector's employment expansion was reached last June with the addition of 15,000 jobs during the 12-month period between 2006 and June 2005.

Since then, the year-over growth posted in the construction industry has begun to recede.

Construction jobs created since December 2005 registered at 13,400, a movement away from the June 2006 peak of 15,000.

Even with the slowing, construction remains the leading growth industry in Utah, said the department of workforce services economist.

The 13,400 jobs added in the past year represents a growth rate of 15.5 in the Utah construction industry.

Professional and business services is the other industry that is pulling back in employment growth, continued Knold.

Expanding by 9,800 jobs in the past year, the professional and business services sector remains Utah's second-best growth industry.

The state's professional and business services sector's current growth rate stands at 6.4 percent.

The state's business and professional services industry peaked in late 2005 with the addition of 11,000 employment opportunities during a one-year period.

The sector is made up of two major components - high paying professional and technical positions along with lower-paying temporary help, placement agency and telemarketing jobs, indicated the department of workforce services economist.

The second component of the sector is seeing the employment slowdown, not the first.

"In fact, the hiring into professional and technical jobs may not have peaked yet," commented Knold. "It is holding at around its peak of 6,000 jobs over the past year."

"But the worker placement and telemarketing areas have become vulnerable to reduced worker flows because of the tight labor market and that clearly is starting to have an impact. Worker flows into those areas are being reduced as more lucrative opportunities elsewhere have created a tight labor market for these industries," concluded the department or workforce services economist.

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