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Carbon experiences climbing jobless level

Carbon's unemployment rate climbed slightly to register at 3.8 percent in last month compared to the 3.6 percent jobless level experienced by the county in February 2007.

Nevertheless, the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate that Carbon's economy supported a 0.7 percent employment expansion rate during the last 12-month period.

Carbon County reported 9,152 and 9,089 local labor force positions in February 2008 and February 2007 respectively.

At the state level, the department of workforce services estimated Utah's non-farm wage and salaried job growth for February at 2.3 percent.

The projection continues the recent downward trend in employment growth.

Approximately 28,100 labor force positions were created in the Utah economy in the last year, raising total wage and salary employment statewide to 1,254,700.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, measured 3 percent in February.

Approximately 41,000 Utahns were considered unemployed, compared against 32,700 last year.

Although the rate of growth in Utah's employment base is slowing, only the construction and information sectors show job losses.

On the positive side of the economic spectrum, the trade, transportation and utilities sector led the state's job growth, with the addition of 6,700 positions.

The majority of the growth was in the trade portion of the industry primarily the retail sector.

But due to national economic condition like climbing gas prices and rising food costs, Utah consumers are becoming wary and may curb spending, which could mean retail expansion may not continue.

The state's education and health sector also added employment positions, creating 5,900 jobs between February 2007 and 2008 for a growth rate of 4.2 percent.

In addition, government's foundational strength was witnessed at the local level, particularly through the kindergarten to 12th grade education system.

With the ongoing wave of younger than 10-year-olds entering the Utah K-12 system, employment gains stand to increase in the next 10 years.

Another positive was Utah's professional and business services sector. But the temporary help or placement agency side of the business sector weakened and wavered to show a slight year-over loss. But the the professional side of the business industry added 5,500 jobs in the last year.

On the negative side of thye spectrum, Utah's construction industry shedding jobs and the economic factors that would halt or reverse the downward trend are not imminent.

"It's interesting to observe how quickly this industry can go from boom to lethargy in just six months," commented Mark Knold, DWS economist. "Non-residential construction activity is still doing very well, but is not enough to absorb and stem the job losses on the residential side, where new home construction permitting has recently fallen by as much as 70 percent. With limited new home building, that not only removes the impetus behind Utah's three-year construction boom, but also removes a lot of workers from the mix. The positive note is that household formation in Utah is still strong, meaning Utah's demographics support the need for more houses. But the national mortgage situation has the lending markets going back to old lending standards of income verification, a down payment, and higher rates."

"The problem is Utah's houses are priced at the recent, but just abandoned criterion that ignored the old standards, with the result that the new criterion had thrown excess money at a limited product," noted Knold. "Utah's housing prices - in relation to Utah incomes and current mortgage standards - cannot remain this high. When housing prices fall enough to combine with lending rates to once again equate affordability, only then will Utah start to again build houses in mass. In the interim, construction will now be a drag upon the economy."

At the national level, the United States' unemployment rate dropped by one-tenth to 4.8 percent in February. But the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classified the decline as a reduction in labor force participation rather than job gains. Since last February, the U.S. economy added 810,000 jobs for a growth rate of 0.6 percent.

The approximately 28,100 employment opportunities created in Utah represent about 3.5 percent of all jobs added nationwide in the last year. Utah comprises less than 1 percent of all United States jobs.

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