Utah workers battling to make financial ends meet are encountering more difficulties than faced last year.
In addition, Utahns are working harder for less money, according to a department of workforce analysis, state economic research and reports compiled by the United States Census Bureau along with the federal labor agency.
Reflecting the statewide financial dilemma, the United States Bankruptcy Court for Utah received 5,539 petitions during the first three months of the year.
The banruptcy protection filings represent a 6.4 percent jump from the number of petitions submitted by Utahns to the federal court from January through March 2002.
For the last two years, Utah has ranked at the top of the nationwide list in the number of bankruptcies filed per household.
On more positive notes, the Utah Smart Site project won the U.S. Department of Commerce's 2003 innovation excellence in economic development award.
The program develops employment opportunities in rural communities by attracting and aiding businesses on the Internet to provide information technology outsourcing services for clients worldwide.
The U.S. government also identified 35 sites in the West, including three locations in Utah, as having the greatest potential for quick development of geothermal power.
The study is the result of an increased emphasis on geothermal potential on federal parcels managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, pointed out the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
The study is part of the federal government's broader effort to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign energy.
At the national level, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on Monday that business inventories climbed 0.6 percent in February when compared with a 0.3 percent increase in January.
Business sales, meanwhile, dropped 1 percent in February, the biggest decline posted since November 2001.
U.S. industrial production slid in March by a larger than expected 0.5 percent, confirmed the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Factories, mines and utilities operated at slower paces, using only 74.8 percent of total capacity in March for the lowest reading posted since December 2001.
Consumer prices rose a modest 0.3 percent in March, primarily reflecting higher energy costs. The increase reported in the consumer price index - the federal government's most closely watched inflation barometer - registered at half the size of the 0.6 percent jump witnessed in February.
Excluding energy and food prices or the core rate, inflation remained flat in March, explained the U.S. Labor Department.
Budget analysts expected small company hiring to rebound throughout the U.S. However, the economic indicator worsened amid war and economic jitters.
Only 1 percent of 555 firms surveyed nationwide confirmed plans to add employees.
Small company hiring plummeted from 6 percent in February, noted the National Federation of Independent Business trade group.
The last time the United States small business hiring measure hit 1 percent was in December 1991,
Although the future of the U.S. economy remains unclear, analysts warn residents that a little patience might be in order.
Public as well as private attention has increasingly turned toward high frequency economic data for a hint of the economy's direction.
The high frequency data in question include weekly jobless claims, chain store sales totals, consumer confidence measures and manufacturing surveys.
But the high frequency data, particularly the weekly unemployment claim reports, are notoriously volatile, explained the Utah Department of Workforce Services.