Utah's employment numbers improved slightly and companies operating across the state started slowly adding jobs during the last half of 2003.
The state posted a 4.7 percent unemployment rate in December 2003, indicated the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The jobless rate translates into 57,300 displaced workers at locations throughout the state.
Last month's statewide jobless rate was 0.2 percent better than November's figure and represented a significant improvement from the 6.3 percent posted in December 2002.
In December 2002, 74,000 Utahns were unemployed, confirmed the weekly Trendlines report released by the workforce services department.
Utah's recent upswing in job creation started at least six months before the United States as a whole.
However, the economic recession continues to negatively impact state and local residents.
Ending Jan. 17, the number of four-week average of unemployment insurance initial claims filed statewide registered at 2,498, according to workforce services.
The figure represents a 10 percent decrease from the four-week average of 2,788 last year.
The number of all unemployment insurance initial claims filed across Utah during the week totaled 2,405.
Weeks claimed numbered 20,526, decreasing by 14 percent from last year's 23,881.
In addition, the department of workforce services received 7,400 applications for food stamps from Utahns during November 2003, the latest data available.
The number of 2003 requests represents a 6.4 percent increase compared to the food stamp applications submitted in November 2002.
Also, more than 2,200 Utah households applied for benefits funded by temporary assistance to needy families last November.
The number represents a 1.7 percent decrease from the applications submitted in November 2002.
The state's general assistance program received more than 1,100 applications in November 2003 for a 17.8 percent increase compared to 2003.
The number of applications for child care assistance jumped 38.3 percent statewide to reach 1,543 last November.
At the national level, the U.S. Department of Labor indicated that new unemployment insurance benefit claims has declined slightly.
For the seven-day period ending Jan. 17, approximately 341,000 jobless Americans filed initial claims for state unemployment benefits, compared with 342,000 the prior week.
The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims decreased to 344,500 from 347,750 nationwide.
However, the number of continued unemployment benefit claims filed by Americans out of work for seven days or more climbed to 3.14 million for the week ending Jan. 10, the latest data available. The number of continued unemployment claim filings nationwide registered at 3.13 million the previous week.
In addition, national job statistics slightly worsened during the same designated time period, noted the U.S. Labor Department.
But on a more positive note, the index of leading U.S. economic indicators rose in December for the ninth consecutive month.
The New York-based Conference Board's gauge of how the overall U.S. economy will perform during the next three to six months inched up 0.2 percent after a posting 0.2 percent gain in November.
A record number of Americans filed applications for mortgages to purchase homes last week as the lowest rates since last July drew buyers into the market.
The Mortgage Bankers Association's purchase index jumped 12.5 percent to 501.6, the highest level posted since the group started the weekly survey in 1990.