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Utah job count up, unemployment down

Utah's nonfarm wage and salaried job count for November 2011, as generated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), expanded by 2.5 percent compared to November 2010. This is a 12-month increase of 30,300 jobs, and raises total wage and salary employment to 1,227,800.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate-generated by BLS-is Utah's other primary indicator of current labor market conditions and registers 6.4 percent. Last month, the rate was 7.0 percent and one year ago 7.6 percent. Approximately 85,800 Utahns are considered to be unemployed. The United States unemployment rate, as compared to last month, dropped from 9.0 percent to 8.6 percent. According to the President's Council of Economic Advisors, half of this national decline is attributed to job gains, the other half to people leaving the labor force.

Utah continues to be one of the nation's leading employment growth states. Nearly all industrial sectors have added jobs over the past 12 months, and the employment rebound appears on firm footing as the economy moves into 2012. The state's rebound from recession leading to the current employment growth is naturally being driven by the state's metropolitan areas, they being the largest commerce centers-around 90 percent of Utah's economy. Utah and Davis counties stand out with employment growth rates over 4.0 percent, and that growth is spread across multiple industries-including construction. Counties on the immediate fringe of the metropolitan corridor-such as Summit, Wasatch, and Cache-are also contributing to this employment revival.

Nearly all of Utah's industrial sectors are adding jobs, the lone exceptions being construction and government. However, it is anticipated that revisions to this data will ultimately move government to the growth side of the ledger. Government gains will show up in education-kindergarten through universities.

Construction, an industry whose growth is important to help sustain overall long-term economic expansion, is trying to rebuild its employment foundation in Utah. It is moving forward in some regions while others are still sluggish. For most of this year, the employment survey reads construction's numbers as oscillating between employment gains and losses from month to month. The current month measures a loss (down 500). This oscillation pattern portrays Utah construction employment as largely unchanged from last year and an industry still waiting for a rebound to develop.

Some areas are experiencing construction gains though. Utah County added close to 1,000 construction jobs over the year, with much of that attributed to the assembly of the National Security Administration building at Camp Williams. Davis County is also seeing gains. The Logan area was recently cited as having the largest percentage employment decline in construction within the nation's metropolitan areas. This should be recognized as an anomaly and not deterioration in fundamentals. A natural gas pipeline was laid across northern Utah for several months last year. This temporarily spiked the Logan area's construction employment. The current numbers are being compared against that spike and naturally count several hundred less, as that project was considerable. This is a phase that will pass in several months and not an indication of erosion in the Logan-area fundamentals.

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