Carbon County's economy received a shot-in-the-arm during the second half of 2001, boosted by an upswing in local construction jobs.
The latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate local non-farm employment opportunities climbed 1.4 percent in the third quarter and 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter.
Total non-agricultural employment increased by 170 jobs during the last six months of 2001, representing the first significant up-tick reported in Carbon County since late 1997.
From July to December 2001, goods-producing industries accounted for the majority of the employment expansion, while services recorded a slight job decline.
Construction led the way, adding nearly 300 jobs. Work on major roadways and pipelines were the driving force behind the jump in activity.
However, construction jobs frequently provide temporary respite and will not sustain future growth, pointed out the state workforce department. In fact, if construction jobs were factored out, non-agricultural employment in the county would have declined in third and fourth quarters 2001.
Growth experienced during the second half of last year, combined with out-migration and a contraction in the labor force, helped drive unemployment rates down in Carbon County.
Third and fourth quarters showed unemployment in the local area registering at 5.7 percent, compared with an jobless rate of 6.2 percent for the last six months of 2000.
According to workforce services, an estimated 470 county residents were unemployed during the last half of 2001.
Carbon's County's 2.6 percent increase in jobs in fourth quarter 2001 represents the strongest rate of expansion since 1997.
Mining employment posted slight improvement, while service industry jobs faltered in data processing, health care, industrial repair and engineering.
Trade continued to decline, with retail jobs dropping 3.7 percent. Transportation, finance and real estate all posted increases. Permit authorized building shot up and gross taxable retail sales improved 10 percent.
Manufacturing employment in the county rose 4.4 percent, expanding by nearly 20 jobs as industrial machinery added positions.
The conditions reported by the local manufacturing sector sharply contrasted with the downturn in related employment witnessed by the nation and Utah.
Mining started to show life as a few jobs were added in the local coal industry, indicated the workforce department. Nevertheless, the last six months of 2001 showed mining jobs down 7.6 percent compared to 2000.
Two service-producing sectors aided the local employment picture. Transportation, communications and utilities added about 30 jobs during the last six-months of 2001. Trucking and air service jobs were the catalysts of growth.
Finance, insurance and real estate employment climbed by 13.2 percent or about 24 positions, led by non-bank lending services.
Services employment fell 3.9 percent or by nearly 80 positions during the last half of 2001.
Computer business, industrial repair, health care and engineering services all experienced double-digit numeric declines in employment opportunities. But social services and temporary help businesses posted increases.
Trade employment slipped 2.5 percent, with the majority of the losses concentrated in retail trade at department, food and garden center stores operating in the county.
Government positions were off a slight 0.6 percent. The number of state and federal jobs in the county remained virtually unchanged, while local government employment fell in social services and education.
The total value of permit authorized construction in the county jumped 44.7 percent from $7.5 million during the last half of 2000 to $10.8 million in 2001.
Residential units increased from 31 to 35, while the value of the construction projects rose from slightly less than $1 million to $1.5 million.
Non-residential valuations jumped from $1.8 million in 2000 to $8.7 million last, with a significant portion of the increase due to the Super Wal-Mart in Price, continued the workforce department.
The improved economic conditions were reflected in gross taxable retail sales, which rose to a healthy $188 million, an in crease of 9.9 percent in the second half of 2001 compared to 2000.
Retail sales increased 5.7 percent to reach the $83.1 million mark as building and garden stores along with automobile sales companies experience improvements.
General merchandise stores reported increased sales and wholesale trade registered impressive growth, rising 15.9 percent to $44.3 million.
Construction sales rose 115.8 percent, while mining was up 22.0 percent.
Manufacturing sales jumped by 42.2 percent. Services sales were the only area to post a slump, dropping 3.3 percent. Education, health, and recreation services accounted for the decline.
Even though Carbon County concluded last year on a relatively positive note, the uncertainty of dark economic clouds continue to hover on the horizon as the temporary impact of construction jobs will pass in 2002, indicated the workforce department. The energy crisis appears to have abated and the results will likely reduce the demand for coal to negatively impact the county's economy.
Local residents should not anticipate a quick turnaround in retail and services employment as the effects of the national and Utah recessions will combine to slow improvements in Carbon County's economy, concluded the state workforce department.