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Recession ripples impacting state, national economies

The number of displaced workers filing for unemployment benefits at locations throughout Utah continues to climb, including in Carbon County.

Ending Oct. 12, the four-week average of unemployment insurance initial claims filed across the state registered at 1,954, representing a 20 percent compared to last year.

The number of all initial claims totaled 2,163. Weeks claimed numbered 16,851, increasing by 17 percent from 2001.

Sales of single-family homes in Utah remains a bright spot in an otherwise slouching economy.

Statewide, the number of housing units sold in the three-month period ending Sept. 30 increased 8 percent compared to 2001, according to the Wasatch Front Regional Multiple Listing Service.

The average price of a single-family home in Utah climbed to $173,873 from $172,490 a year ago.

In addition to higher unemployment, rural counties preparing budgets for next year may find the task more difficult to accomplish due to possible cutbacks in federal payments in lieu of taxes, points out the Utah Department of Workforce Services' latest Trendlines report.

Since 1977, the United States government has provided PILT funds to counties with large tracts of non-taxable federal land.

The federal budget for 2003 has yet to be approved, but President George Bush wants to cut PILT money by 23.5 percent.

Utah ranks fifth in the nation in federal PILT allocations. In 2002, Utah received more than $16 million in federal revenues.

A statewide program training rural doctors, nurses and other providers for medically under-served populations recently secured a $3.5 million federal grant.

The grant revenues are a financial windfall since the agency's budget was slashed $1.3 million by the 2002 Utah Legislature.

The rural medical provider training program will use the federal funds to cover operating expenses for the next three years, noted the Utah Area Health Education Centers.

At the national level, housing logged the largest gains in more than seven years in September, according to the U.S. Commerce Department reported. Droves of Americans seized on decades low interest rates to purchase homes.

Ground breaking for new dwellings jumped 13.3 percent in the U.S., the highest level posted nationwide since June 1986. It was the biggest monthly increase since a 14.1 percent climb in July 1995. Building permits, an indication of consumer confidence and a gauge of future strength, rose 3.7 percent.

The number of Americans lining up to apply for jobless benefits exceeded the key 400,000 level last week, signaling that the U.S. labor market remains in the doldrums.

First time claims for state unemployment benefits climbed by 22,000 to 411,000 for the week ending Oct. 12, indicated the U.S. Labor Department.

Economists view the 400,000 level as the sign of a stalled labor market. The number of unemployed Americans staying on benefits for more than one week rose by 141,000 to 3.76 million individuals.

U.S. consumer prices edged up 0.2 percent in September, as the cost of energy and cars jumped. But inflation elsewhere in the economy was muted, confirmed the U.S. Labor Department.

The core consumer price index, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, rose less than expected. In August, the CPI rose 0.3 percent overall and in the core index. During the last 12 months, the CPI has risen 1.5 percent. The core CPI has increased 2.2 percent.

Social Security recipients will receive a 1.4 percent cost of living increase on monthly checks in 2003. The smallest increase in Social Security benefits in four years reflects a slowdown in inflation caused by the weak economy. The increase will mean an extra $13 a month for the typical retiree.

The U.S. trade deficit swelled to a record $38.5 billion in August, reflecting Americans' hearty appetite for foreign made clothes, cars and television. The U.S. Commerce Department indicated that the trade deficit registered 9.7 percent higher than the $35.1 billion gap reported in July.

Imports of goods and services rose by 2 percent in August from the previous month, the highest level in 17 months. Exports, meanwhile, fell by 1.3 percent in August.

Inventories on shelves and back lots dipped by 0.1 percent in August, a sign that businesses are feeling skittish about the economy, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. The dip marks the first drop in inventories since April and came after a solid 0.4 percent advance in July.

Nationwide business sales grew 0.2 percent in August, a slowdown from the 1.3 percent increase posted in July. The inventory-to-sales ratio fell to 1.34 months, a record U.S. low. The ratio means it would take businesses 1.34 months to exhaust inventories at the current sales pace.

The nation's industrial output fell in September for the second consecutive month. The drop underscores the fragility of America's manufacturing sector, noted the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Output at U.S. factories, mining operations and utilities edged down by 0.1 percent in September after dropping 0.3 percent in August, indicated the Trendlines report.

Manufacturing output, the largest segment included in the federal agency's analysis, dropped 0.3 percent in September after declining 0.2 percent the previous month.

Businesses also ran at a slower pace, operating at 75.9 percent of total capacity for the lowest level since May, slightly down from 76.0 percent in August, concluded the Utah Department of Workforce Services report.

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