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Carbon County reports expanding employment

Carbon County's economy continued to create expanding employment last month.

The latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate that the local economy generated a 3.1 percent job growth rate during the one-year period between November 2007 and 2008.

Carbon County's total labor force registered at 9,603 last month, compared to the 9,314 local workers reported in November 2007.

At the state level, the department of workforce services estimates that Utah's non-farm wage and salaried job count for November 2008 has contracted by 0.9 percent compared to 2007 data.

Approximately 11,500 jobs have been removed statewide from the Utah economy during the past year, lowering total wage and salary employment to 1,260,900.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, rose to 3.7 percent in November.

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

Approximately 51,200 Utahns were considered unemployed in November compared against 38,600 last year, representing an increase of 12,600 unemployed workers at locations across the state.

At the national level, the unemployment rate in the United States continued to rise, reaching 6.7 percent in November.

"The national financial crisis that unfolded in mid-September into early October that stunned the stock market has rapidly translated into not only an additional deterioration in the Utah economy, but an acceleration in that deterioration," pointed out DWS economist Mark Knold. "That may sound like double-speak, but it means the economy is continuing to lose jobs and the pace of those losses is picking up."

"Moving from a loss of 5,200 jobs on a year-to-year basis in October to an 11,500 year-over-year loss in November represents a hefty increase in lost jobs," explained the DWS economist. "Employment in manufacturing and construction has been in a prolonged decline, and it continues to get worse, but the key shift has been the movement of lost jobs into the services sector - not only the largest, but normally the most stable and stalwart segment of the economy. The last time we saw employment numbers fall like this in Utah was in late 2001, when we were entering that period's dot com recession."

More industries in Utah are now shedding rather than adding jobs. Six industrial sectors are showing year-over-year job losses, while five are recording some employment gains. The current downturn has the potential to become an historic event in post-WWII Utah. The sharpest employment decline in Utah since that war was a 2.5-percent contraction in 1954. The 2001 to 2003 period was the longest span of sub-par employment activity in Utah, with the low point being 2002 with an employment percentage contraction of 0.7 percent. The current situation has the potential to be deeper and longer than the two prior periods.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance have taken a noticeable jump in Utah. In the first week of November 2007, around 1,400 new applicants filed for unemployment benefits. In the first week of November 2008, new applicants numbered nearly 2,500. And for the first week in December, claims have risen to nearly 3,600.

People continue to draw claims until they find jobs or tenure and/or eligibility runs out. The monetary benefits for the continued unemployment claims are running 100 percent higher approaching the end of 2008 than were paid by the unemployment insurance system in 2007.

Utah's unemployment rate is on the rise and will continue to climb for possibly the next two years. But underemployment is also conjectured to be on the rise.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that nationally, 7.3 million Americans were working part-time nationally in November although they wanted to work full-time. The level is 62 percent higher than one year ago. The majority of the people are working less because hours were cut and the same phenomenon appears to be at play in Utah.

Calls to the Utah Department of Workforce Services from employers exploring the benefits verses costs of having a layoff event or cutting back worker hours have increased. The inquiries lead to speculation that the reported upswing in national underemployment is also a factor in Utah. The recent shift in the state's employment situation from service providing industries being job producers to being job droppers signals a more fundamental shift in the nature of Utah's economic slowdown. The goods producing side of the economy - like construction and manufacturing which make up 20 percent of all Utah employment - is historically expected to drop jobs in toughening economic times. When service producing industries start to shed jobs as an assemblage, analysts know the economic downturn has taken a deeper turn.

Professional and business, financial, information and other services are showing year-over-year job losses.

The leisure and hospitality industry along with retail trade is vulnerable to moving onto the negative side of the ledger in coming months.

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