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Carbon County posts slightly declining unemployment, dipping job expansion

Carbon County experienced slightly declining unemployment in October. Joblessness in the local area registered at 4.1 percent last month, dipping from the 4.5 percent unemployment rate recorded in the county in September.

But Carbon County's economy failed to generate expanding employment in October, with the local growth rate sliding into the negative side of the spectrum at minus 0.4 percent. The county reported 9,496 non-farm wage and salaried jobs last month, compared to the 9,536 local labor force positions posted in October 2006.

At the state level, Utah's number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs for October continued to moderate, decreasing to 4.3 percent employment growth during the last 12-months. But even with the slight downward movement, Utah's employment growth exceeded the state's long-term average of 3.3 percent per year since 1950. Utah's economy created approximately 52,500 labor market positions during the last year, raising total wage and salary employment to 1,275,300 statewide.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the unemployment rate, measured at 2.8 percent in October. Approximately 37,700 Utahns were unemployed last month compared to 35,000 in October 2006.

"The subtle moderation in Utah's economic expansion is continuing," noted Mark Knold, department of workforce services economist. "This is expected, though, as high employment growth rates for extended periods of time are difficult to maintain. You constantly have to add higher amounts of employment growth just to equal the percentage of job creation from the previous year. To illustrate with a hypothetical example, if an economy grew by 90 jobs over the past year, and that was a 10 percent growth rate and raised total employment to 1,000, to repeat the 10 percent growth this year you now have to add 100 new jobs instead of 90. The larger the economy's foundation becomes, the larger the volume of new jobs that need to be created just to maintain an even growth percentage. Our historical experience shows that as time progresses, the math takes its toll. All growth periods rise to a high point and then wane. Utah's current expansion passed its high point over a year ago. The good news is the economy does seem to be doing its best to keep the wane to a minimum - at least for now."

All of Utah's industrial sectors continued to add jobs in October. The gains occurred across the industries at different rates and construction no longer led the state's employment expansion. After three-plus years, the torch passed to the trade, transportation and utilities sector.

The trade-transportation conglomeration added 11,300 jobs in the past year, while construction growth dropped to 10,700 employment opportunities.

"It's not so much a case of trade employment surging, but instead a case of construction growth slowing," indicated Knold.

Another Utah industry sector posting continued growth, but at a slowing rate, was professional and business services. Industries growing and maintaining an even pace last month included education and health services, manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality.

One industry showing accelerated employment growth statewide is government. Local governments accounted for the majority of labor market expansion, a response to the wave of elementary age children hitting local school system.

Utah has witnessed a surge of household formations throughout most of the decade, translating into more consumer dollars to be spent. Retail trade, the primary industry that captures consumer spending, is naturally positioned to have a growth spurt as a consequence of the overall household expansions.

Retail activity responds to population expansion - especially smaller businesses, explained the DWS economist. But the existing industry distribution and an area's ability to function as a regional attractor also influence retail activity, noted the DWS economist.

At the national level, the United States' unemployment rate remained at 4.7 percent last month. Since October 2006, the nation's economy has added 1.6 million jobs for a growth rate of 1.2 percent.

The approximately 52,500 employment opportunities generated in Utah represent about 3.3 percent of all the jobs added across the U.S. during the last year. Utah comprises less than 1 percent of the nation's total employment base, concluded Knold.

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