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Carbon posts rising joblessness, negative employment growth

Carbon County's unemployment rate has increased slightly, climbing from 6.6 percent in June to 6.8 percent in July.

In July 2003, the local jobless rate registered significantly higher at 8 percent. But the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate that Carbon continues to post negative employment growth.

Employment opportunities in the county totaled 8,251 last year compared to 8,021 in July 2004, representing a 2.8 percent job loss.

At the state level, Utah's unemployment rate registered at 4.8 percent in July, a slight movement upward from June's 4.6 percent.

Approximately 58,000 workers at locations across the state were jobless last month. In July 2003, 66,400 Utah residents were unemployed when the statewide jobless rate stood at 5.6 percent.

"Just as the national economy seems to have hit a 'soft patch' in Alan Greenspan terminology so has the Utah economy," noted Raylene Ireland, workforce services director. "It appears the recent energy cost spike is the cause, as Utah isn't immune from the influence of energy costs."

Utah's second primary indicator of current labor market conditions, the year-over change in the number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs statewide, remained unchanged at 1.9 percent.

Last month, the state reported 20,500 more employment opportunities than in July 2003.

"This pause in the economy is by no means alarming. In fact, it was anticipated. I commented in a previous press release that the Utah economy would continue to grow throughout 2004 with some occasional stops and starts. Here is one of those stops. I still anticipate that we will get over this energy bump and see more employment growth as this year continues to develop. But I will also say it is not a guarantee," pointed out Mark Knold, workforce services senior economist.

One encouraging aspect of Utah's current employment situation is that the job gains are diverse, occurring in nearly all industries in the state.

Only two industries are not joining in the optimism - information and financial services. But the information sector is slowly trending upward. Financial services, on the other hand, is the only one trending downward.

Utah's strong growth employment sectors are generally good paying industries, explained the department of workforce services representatives.

Professional and business services represented Utah's strongest expansion area, growing by 4.7 percent to add 6,200 jobs during the past year. Education and health care constituted a second strong employment area. Gains of 3,400 employment opportunities translated to a 3 percent expansion rate in the sector.

Construction is growing by 4 percent. The industry showed a noticeable revival early in 2004 and has added 2,800 new jobs statewide in the last year.

The employment numbers represent an analysis of the Utah economy as a whole, explained the department of workforce services representatives.

Several parts of the state are not experiencing significant employment growth, including eastern and central Utah

But 80 percent of Utah's overall economy is concentrated between Ogden and Provo and the performance of the metropolitan area dominates the statewide numbers.

"It has been brought to our attention that there is some confusion on behalf of the public as to understanding and reconciling how Utah's employment numbers released monthly coincide with the national numbers released at the beginning of each month," commented Knold.

In August, the national economy added 32,000 new jobs while Utah's employment gain is being reported at 20,500 positions, explained the workforce services economist.

But Utah did not account for 65 percent of all positions created nationwide. The state and national numbers compare different time periods.

National numbers compare July with June, while Utah's numbers compare the month with the same period in 2003.

The national approach is to look at the short-term variation in the economy, while the Utah approach looks at the long-term movement, added Knold. But in order to take the short-term approach in calculating the employment data, the monthly numbers have to be seasonally adjusted.

Employment levels change from month to month, sometimes drastically, pointed out the department of workforce services economist.

For example, December's employment levels are always higher than in January due to Christmas hiring.

"Therefore, we can't make a comparison of January employment against December employment unless the numbers are in some way adjusted to account for these seasonal differences," indicated Knold. "The federal government makes such an adjustment when it reports its monthly employment counts."

Therefore, the federal government can make a direct comparison between the current employment rates and the data posted during the previous months, according to the department of workforce services representatives.

"In Utah, we do not have the means to make such a seasonal adjustment," pointed out Knold. "Our only alternative is to compare the current month with the performance of the same month last year."

"If I can't adjust the data between January and December, then I can't compare the performance of January against December. Our only alternative is to compare this January's performance against last January's performance," continued the department of workforce services economist.

The federal government's nationwide employment numbers make a one-month comparison, while the data compiled by the department of workforce services make a 12-month comparison.

The different approaches are why the state and federal employment numbers do not seem to match, explained Knold.

Comparing the national numbers on a 12-month basis, the U.S. economy has added 1.6 million new jobs since July 2003. Of the nation's total employment opportunities, 20,500 have developed in Utah. The state's job growth represents 1.3 percent of the nationwide employment expansion rate, concluded the DWS economist.

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