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Carbon economy creates expanding employment levels

Carbon County's economy posted a 1.4 percent employment expansion level last month.

The latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate the county's labor market employed 9,327 residents in September compared to the 9,202 local non-farm jobs reported in 2007.

Carbon's second indicator of labor market conditions - the unemployment rate - remained constant in September, registering at 4.7 percent.

The number of jobless workers residing in Carbon County totaled 463.

At the state level, the department of workforce services estimated Utah's non-farm wage and salaried job growth for September at 0.1 percent.

Utah's economy created approximately 1,800 jobs within the last 12-month period, raising total wage and salary employment statewide to 1,265,405.

The state's unemployment rate, dropped two-tenths to 3.5 percent in September.

But the decrease can be attributed to minor surveying volatility, not an improving job market, noted the department of workforce services.

Last year, the state's jobless rate registered at 2.8 percent.

Approximately 48,300 residents were considered unemployed statewide in September 2008 compared to the 38,400 displaced workers reported in 2007.

At the national level, the United States unemployment rate remained constant at 6.1 percent in September.

"Is there consolation in saying that the Utah economy is doing a little better than the national economy, considering how bad the national economy has become? In the face of the current economic situation, we will take this as positive news," commented DWS economist Mark Knold. "Utah's employment growth rate has largely fallen to zero. But that is better than the national picture, where the economy is into its sixth month of declining employment."

"Utah's unemployment rate still remains low, showing that our labor market is not in a stressful situation. Keeping people employed is the tonic that will keep the Utah economy from slipping over the edge and into an environment that will feel and resemble the national recession," continued Knold. "The recent national economic meltdown makes me wonder whether Utah will be able to continue to keep its job creation machine functioning. The seizing up of the financial markets may be even more than the Utah economy will be able to bear."

Utah's economy remains negatively impacted by residential construction and the sector's dramatic fall during the last 12 months. The decline started last September and, since the state's housing market went dormant one year ago, the pace of construction's future declines should begin to moderate.

"Does that mean the construction industry will be growing again? No. Job declines will still be there, just progressing at a slower pace. Eventually, this industry will grow again. But that doesn't seem to be a possibility for at least another year and then probably even beyond that for two reasons," indicated the DWS economist. "Residential construction will still be very sluggish next year and will not rebound in earnest until the housing price decline finds its bottom and, secondly; we don't see the non-residential sector repeating its all-time highs of the past two years. So this segment of construction will also start to scale back, maybe even dramatically, considering the current seizing up of the lending markets and the loss of financing."

"Naturally, the financial sector is not doing well in the face of the ongoing credit panic - and panic it is when banks won't even lend money to each other. Financial employment expansion has been grinding to a halt over the course of the past year and it is now shedding jobs from its Utah totals. Fortunately, Utah doesn't have a large Wall Street type exposure in its financial system so a Bear Stearns and Lehman Brother type mass job loss is minimal in Utah."

There has been a significant increase in Utah unemployment claims and benefits paid in 2008, indicated the department of workforce services. But when put in historical context, the state's unemployment claims are not out of line.

However, the entire equation remains vulnerable to how the national economy fares during the next year, concluded the department of workforce services.




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