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DWS Report Analyzes Carbon Economic Data

The impact of the Willow Creek mine's closure continues to exert a negative impact the Carbon County economy.

Declining employment opportunities in other local industries compounded the loss of approximately 350 high paying coal mining jobs, points out the latest report compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Overall, non-farm employment in Carbon County dropped 6.6 percent by mid-year 2001 compared to 2000, representing a loss of 600 jobs. Half of the jobs lost were attributable to declines in mining.

The loss of nearly 300 positions in other local employment sectors magnified the economic impact experienced by the county.

The unemployment rate in Carbon County jumped from 5.5 percent in the first half of 2000 to 6.3 percent in 2001. Workforce services estimated the number of unemployed Carbon County residents at more than 550.

Upward pressure will remain on the unemployment rate in light of the expanding national recession and the dramatic about-face in the energy industry, pointed out DWS. The declining energy costs lower the demand for new sources, although the need remains to upgrade and expand the grid to accommodate future growth.

Carbon County's goods producing industries - mining, construction and manufacturing - have felt the brunt of the job losses, continued the DWS report.

Employment positions in the coal industry have dropped by approximately 37 percent, while expectation of oil and gas developments have been slow to hatch. The situation further dims the hope for a recovery in the mining industry.

The proposed re-opening of the Willow Creek mine by Amwest would help the local economic picture, explained the workforce services report. But before operations can resume at the underground coal production facility, the painstaking effort to check the mine for safety must be completed.

Employment in the county's construction sector dropped 2.2 percent, with residential as well as non-residential contractors and special trades workers reporting year-over losses during the first half of 2001.

On the positive side of the spectrum, heavy construction contractors showed an increase due to the expansion of road and water projects.

Manufacturing employment followed the national trend by falling 11.5 percent in Carbon County for about 50 jobs.

Food products, apparel, lumber and fabricated metals manufacturing all felt the pinch, according to DWS.

Offsetting the losses was a gain of employment opportunities in the manufacture of industrial machinery.

Overall, the local service producing industries witnessed declining employment.

The big three of trade, services and government reported year-over job losses.

Only two industries, transportation/communications/utilities and finance/insurance/real estate, defied the trends and added staff positions.

Services dropped in the neighborhood of 125 jobs, for a 5.9 percent decrease.

Lost were positions at temporary supply and data processing services, which mirrors the state experience.

Industrial repair services also posted significant decreases during the first half of 2001.

Lodging, professional and personal services managed to eke out slight year-over growth.

Trade positions declined by 4.3 percent, for a loss of about 95 jobs across the Carbon County area.

Wholesale trade for durable goods declined, while retail jobs for direct telephone sales suffered significant declines.

Other retail sales areas slipped slightly as well within the county.

Government employment opportunities declined a slight 0.5 percent as federal positions, relating primarily to the loss of census jobs, showed the most significant drop.

State employment opportunities fell in Carbon County, while local government added nearly 30 staff members, primarily for health care and education.

But despite the relatively dismal conditions, a few glimmers of hope surfaced in Carbon County's employment picture, explained the department of workforce services.

Transportation, communications and utilities expanded by 5.3 percent, creating about 30 positions. Most of the job growth occurred in local and long-haul trucking, freight services and air terminal services.

However, local employment losses in railroad transportation and electric, gas and sanitary services nearly offset the gains.

Employment opportunities in Carbon County's finance, insurance and real estate sector increased 7.3 percent, for a year-over growth of less than 15 jobs.

Non-banking establishments for personal credit, insurance and real estate development accounted for the expansion.

Permit-authorized construction activity slowed in the county during the first six months of 2001.

Total valuation of permitted construction projects in the Carbon County area fell 8.5 percent, dropping from $5.4 million in 2000 to $4.9 percent in 2001.

Residential units plunged 47 percent, from 61 in 2000 to 32 in 2001.

Major declines in prefabricated and manufactured homes accounted for the majority of the loss, according to the department of workforce services' latest evaluation.

Single-family home building decreased slightly in the county, while the value of residential projects rose 1.8 percent.

Non-residential building valuation decreased 16 percent with fewer permitted major projects authorized. Renovations work reported a 25 percent drop in valuation, indicated the DWS data.

Declining gross taxable retail sales provided additional evidence of the general slowdown in Carbon County's economic fortunes.

Local gross taxable retail sales fell by 4.1 percent to $164.8 million for the first six months of 2001.

Retail activity decreased 3.7 percent as every major category in the county reported fewer sales, except general merchandise stores, which showed a slight gain.

Food stores dropped 11.1 percent, while motor vehicle sales slipped 0.7 percent in Carbon County.

Sales fell sharply for construction, manufacturing and transportation in the county.

Local sales were also off moderately for communications, electricity, gas and wholesale trade.

Services inched up 1.8 percent as business and recreation sales improved.

Mining sales managed to grow by 1.5 percent, in spite of the severe job losses in the county coal industry.

Combined with falling prices for natural gas and oil, the national recession along with the reduction in energy demand and tight state budgets will hinder Carbon County's economic recovery efforts, concluded the department of workforce services report.

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