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County continues to experience negative employment growth

Carbon County experienced a negative 3.3 percent non-farm employment expansion rate in May.

In addition, the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate that Carbon's jobless rate registered at 4.8 percent last month, with 484 residents classifed as unemploymed.

Carbon County's labor force totals 10,162.

At the state level, the department of workforce services estimated Utah's non-farm wage and salaried job growth between May 2008 and 2007 at 1.4 percent.

The Utah economy created approximately 17,900 jobs during the last year, raising total wage and salary employment statewide to 1,268,200.

The state's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, measured at 3.2 percent in May.

Approximately 44,000 Utahns were considered unemployed in May 2008 compared against 35,000 last year.

At the national level, the United States' unemployment rate increased by one-half of a percentage point to reach the 5.5 percent jobless mark.

"The pace of slowing in the Utah employment picture intensified this month," noted DWS representative Mark Knold. "Job losses in the construction sector are the primary reason for the rapid deceleration. While there remain areas of Utah's economy still looking for and embracing new workers - like information technology, life science and health care companies - the national credit and mortgage predicament has translated into the slowest new home building market in Utah in almost 30 years."

Numerous construction companies routinely lay off employees during the winter months when the workload naturally slackens.

"So the housing slowdown that began last fall wasn't fully exposed until now," explained the DWS economist. "The number of new homes permitted this year to date is so low that Utah is not seeing the spring rehiring surge that normally occurs. Therefore, the anticipated employment contrast for this year is now becoming more pronounced as those workers are missing from this year's springtime payrolls."

The majority of Utah's industrial sectors continued to post job gains in the past year, pointed out the department of workforce services.

But a weakening trend has started to emerge, signaling that the overall Utah employment picture will decline further before it begins to rebound.

For example, manufacturing is showing signs relative to the weakening state of the national economy, indicated the department of workforce services.

Layoffs are picking up and the industry is feeling the stress of financially strained consumers as well as high energy and transportation costs.

Nationally, the weak U.S. dollar against foreign currencies has been a boost for manufacturing exports. But Utah's manufacturing makeup is not strongly built around international sales.

Therefore, the lower dollar does not offer a positive counter for Utah manufacturers, indicated the DWS economist.

Consumer spending power is being squeezed in Carbon County, across Utah and at locations throughout the nation by climbing inflation fueled by the rising price of gasoline and food, continued the DWS economist.

The combined factors have put a damper upon Utah consumer spending. Therefore, the strong employment gains of the past year in the trade, transportation and utilities sector are diminishing.

Utah's dynamic retail trade expansion of the last three years was fueled by family formations and the housing boom.

But the recent slowing trends indicate that the dynamic has hit a wall and, as time progresses, the year-over employment gap statewide will lessen.

In addition, Utah's transportation sector is feeling the pain of higher fuel prices. Trucking employment is down compared to a year ago and the airline industry is facing a price spiraling environment.

Railroad employment across Utah is also registering below last year's level.

But the construction industry represents the main drain on the Utah economy.

Construction reported the loss of 7,600 jobs during the last 12 months and the department of workforce services expects the industry's employment level to decline further.

The education and health care components remain the stalwarts of Utah's economy. Government institutions administer the majority of the state's education and student counts drive up the need for teachers.

The health care industry remains in a consistent growth mode statewide.

"Booms don't last forever, but the one in this industry sure has been long and substantial," concluded the DWS economist.

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