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Carbon reports declining unemployment

Carbon County's unemployment rate registered at 6.8 percent in March.

The local rate dipped slightly from February's 7 percent jobless figure.

By comparison, Carbon County reported a 7.7 percent unemployment rate in March 2003.

In neighboring Emery County, the jobless rate climbed from 9.4 percent in February to 10.7 percent in March.

Emery County posted an 11 percent unemployment rate in March 2003.

At the state level, Utah's unemployment rate registered at 5 percent in March. The statewide jobless rate increased slightly from February's 4.7 percent figure.

Approximately 60,500 displaced workers at locations across Utah were unemployed in March 2004.

Last March, 69,200 Utahns were jobless when the state's unemployment rate stood at 5.9 percent.

"The slight rise in the unemployment rate is not a concern. Some of it is normal statistical variation. Some is due to an increase in the labor force participation rate," noted Mark Knold, Utah Department of Workforce Services senior economist.

"I have stated in the past that I wouldn't be surprised to see the unemployment rate rise as the economy starts to grow. Those who may have left the labor force during the economic downturn may re-emerge as they sense the economy is growing and employment prospects improve. As they return, they are once again counted in the statistics and they are considered unemployed until they find a job," explained the Department of Workforce Services economist.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the year-over change in the number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs, continued moving upward, reaching 1.4 percent for 14,900 employment positions compared to last year.

"Employment growth is gaining steam in Utah. We can now shift our minds out of an economic stagnation mode and into an economic growth mode," pointed out Raylene Ireland, department of workforce services director.

The last time Utah experienced employment growth of 1.4 percent was March 2001. But three years ago, the statewide job expansion rate was on the way down. Now, Utah's employment growth is on the way up and, with some intermittent intervals, the expansion is expected to continue rising as the year progresses.

Utah's economy started adding jobs in July 2003. Slow at first, the employment expansion pace picked noticeably during fourth quarter.

The national economy has started to spring to life and the situation bodes well for Utah to continue adding jobs and grow beyond the state's prior peak.

Utah reached the employment peak in January 2001. With the recent growth, Utah should reach and pass the peak within the next several months.

Utah rarely has employment contractions, but the latest recession's persistence and duration represented frustrating factors, noted DWS officials.

All industrial sectors across the state are experiencing employment growth, except for a slight decline in natural resource employment and a stagnant information sector

Utah's financial activities show growth, but are trending downward toward a contraction mode.

Education and services remain the strong point in Utah's economy, particularly health care, noted the department of workforce services representatives.

Employment growth in the state's health services industry registered at 3.5 percent in March.

Professional and business services represent a second strong area, growing by 3.5 percent for 4,400 new jobs.

After six years of declining employment, manufacturing in Utah added more jobs over-the-year than the sector lost and construction is up by 1,600 positions, continued the DWS representatives.

Construction employment has been down for about three years, but the industry's return to growth signals an overall uptick in the state's economy.

A strong ski season has helped the leisure and hospitality sector grow by 1,900 positions. Some of the expansion is expected to moderate when the season ends, but there is an overall upswing in travel activity nationwide. In addition, with a weakening dollar against foreign currencies, visitation at Utah's national parks may increase as an American vacation becomes more affordable, concluded the department of workforce services.

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