Carbon County's economy continued to struggle throughout 2003, as local employment opportunities fell by 3.5 percent for the year.
The rate of decline accelerated when fourth quarter jobs dropped by 5.1 percent locally.
The adjusted April 2004 unemployment rate for Carbon County registered at 5.7 percent, down from 7.9 percent joblessness reported in the local area last year.
"The obvious question is - how can unemployment fall when jobs also fall?" noted Austin Sargent, Utah Department of Workforce Services regional economist in the state agency's June 2004 newsletter. "The answer has to do with labor force characteristics."
"When jobs fall and the unemployment rate also falls, it tells us that the labor force is shrinking - either by individuals discontinuing to look for work or they leave the area. This is the case with Carbon County," explained the DWS regional economist.
As Carbon's economy has weakened, the local labor force has basically become smaller.
Employment declines in the goods producing sector led the way in the 5.1 percent decrease in non-farm jobs in Carbon County during fourth quarter 2003, indicated the department of workforce services economist.
Employment opportunities in the local goods producing sector fell by 134 positions.
Mining jobs declined as coal and oil and gas extraction reported fewer workers, continued the latest DWS newsletter.
Completion of several local gas exploration projects added to the employment losses posted by the mining industry in Carbon County.
Construction jobs fell slightly as heavy construction projects waned in the local area.
In addition, printing and wood product manufacturing in Carbon County reported steep job losses
However, special trade contractors managed to show employment gains.
But on the negative side of the spectrum, the number of year-over jobs reported by the local service producing industries declined by approximately 330 employment opportunities in fourth quarter 2003
Retail trade showed the most losses, primarily at building and garden stores and for non-store retailers, pointed out the department of workforce services regional economist.
Food service and accommodations in Carbon County shed jobs as did professional and business services.
Even health care positions declined at the local hospital, social services agencies and care facilities, noted the latest DWS newsletter.
Jobs also declined in the local trucking and information sectors.
Government employment opportunities in Carbon County dropped at the federal, state and local levels.
Cuts in education were the main reason for the fall in government employment, noted the department of workforce services economist.
About the only bright spot in Carbon County's employment picture was a slight increase in jobs in wholesale trade and financial services.
On a more positive note, building activity in Carbon County showed some improvement in fourth quarter 2003 as the total year-over valuation of permit authorized activity doubled to $4.8 million, indicated the department of workforce services regional economist.
Local housing starts climbed 6 percent and the value for new residential buildings increased 85 percent.
The improvement was for higher valued single-family dwellings as low mortgage interest rates helped sustain the local market
Non-residential building permitting in Carbon County reached the $1.3 million mark during fourth quarter 2003. Renovations also improved, due primarily to a $1.2 million church remodeling project.
Local gross taxable sales had declined by 2.8 percent at the end of 2003 for the fifth consecutive quarterly decrease. But the rate of decline slowed substantially.
Mining and manufacturing sales continued to slump in Carbon County, while electric and gas sales posted slight improvement.
Retail sales dipped 1.7 percent in Carbon County during fourth quarter 2003. The decrease was led by falling sales at food, building and garden stores.
Sales at motor vehicles and general merchandise stores climbed, while services declined 8.5 percent due to slowdown in repairs and lodging.
The outlook for Carbon County's economy remains muted unless the demand for power generation increases the demand for coal. Slow population growth combined with a cautious outlook for coal production will keep the lid on the prospects for local economic growth, concluded Sargent.