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Utah, 23 states report falling unemployment

Utah is among 25 states reporting significantly dropping unemployment rates between February 2004 and 2005.

Utah's unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent in February 2005 from 5.4 percent last year, comfirmed the latest data compiled by the United States Labor Department.

Only 12 states had unemployment rates decline by a larger margin.

Ending March 26, the four-week average of Utah unemployment insurance initial claims measured 1,150 - a 35 percent decrease from the last year's 1,760.

Weeks claimed numbered 12,980 a decrease of 2 5 percent compared to 17,200 last year.

In addition to decreasing unemployment, taxable sales at locations across the state soared 8.5 percent during the last quarter of 2004, indicated the latest Trendlines report published by the Utah Department or Workforce Services.

Utah officials welcomed the latest sales tax numbers as a sign the economy is on the upswing, noted the department of workforce services.

Addressing an urelated matter, the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that, with an average commute of 19.7 minutes, Utahns spend less time getting to work than the average American worker - 24.3 minutes.

At the national level, the U.S. Labor Department reported a net gain of 110,000 jobs to payrolls nationwide last month, down from the 243,000 added in February.

The nationwide unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent compared with 5.4 percent in February.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 3.8 percent annual pace in fourth quarter, noted the U.S. Commerce Department in the federal agency's final estimate of GDP performance.

The incomes of Americans rose by 0.3 percent in February while consumer spending climbed at an even faster pace of 0.5 percent, the Commerce Department reported.

The Institute of Supply Management's survey of purchasing managers came in with a reading of 55.2 in March, down slightly from the 55.3 level in February. Any reading above 50 indicates growth in the manufacturing sector.

New orders at U.S. factories rose by 0.2 percent in February, the Commerce Department reported, as strong demand for aircraft barely managed to offset weakness elsewhere.

The March survey of 5,000 households by Conference Board, a private business research group, put its consumer confidence index at 102.4, down from the revised 104.4 reading in February.

Retail gasoline prices climbed to a record national average of $2.153 a gallon in the latest week- up 4.4 cents, according to a weekly survey by the Energy Information Administration. The new price is 39.5 cents per gallon higher than one year ago.

First-time unemployment insurance claims rose to 350,000 in the week ended March 26, up from a revised 330,000 in the previous week, the Labor Department said.

The Conference Board said its gauge measuring help-wanted ad volume in the United States was 41, the same as January, but up a point from February 2004.

Sales fell 1.0 percent in the week ended March 26, compared with a 0.2 percent increase the previous week, the International Council of Shopping Centers and UBS said in a joint report. Sales in March-to-date were down 0.7 percent compared with February according to Redbook Research, but a year-over-year basis, sales at major retailers rose by 3.9 percent for the week ended March 26.

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