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DWS Compiles Data on Carbon County's Labor Force, Economy

Carbon County concluded last year with roughly 51 fewer employment opportunities than reported across the local area in 2003.

According to the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the decrease in the local labor market reflects job loss of 0.6 percent.

However, the pick-up in job growth in the latter half of 2004 is encouraging for the Carbon County, pointed out DWS regional and labor market economist Michael Hanni.

The improving situation was reflected in the county's unemployment rate.

The local jobless rate retreated from a high of 6.9 percent in January to the year's lowest 5.4 percent level in December 2004, continued the regional economist.

Year-over job growth infourth quarter 2004 reached 1.4 percent, indicated Michael Hanni, regional and labor economist with the department of workforce services.

Simply put, between the fourth quarters of 2003 and 2004, Carbon County added 121 jobs to the local labor market, noted Hanni.

The period in question marked the second consecutive quarter of expanding employment in the local area.

Perhaps the thing that jumps out the most in the latest data compiled by the department of workforce services is the strong growth reported in the county's manufacturing sector, explained Hanni.

A gain of 77 jobs in the sector - spurred by the opening of a sawmill - is surprising in a time when rural areas are seeing their manufacturing bases all but disappeared.

On a negative note, one of Carbon County's traditional industries showed increased weakness during fourth quarter 2004, confirmed the DWS regional economist.

Employment in the local mining industry stumbled as coal production operations shed jobs and support services for oil and gas extraction posted a nearly one-half decrease in positions.

Overall, the mining industry in Carbon County lost 50 jobs within the last year.

Wage data provides a second window into the local labor market, continued Hanni

Average annual wages rose 5.2 percent in 2004 compared to 2003. With inflation rising 2.7 percent nationwide in 2004, Carbon County still managed to post a healthy 2.5 percent increase.

Higher wages fuel additional purchases of goods and services which, in turn, create additional economic opportunities in the county.

On the other side of the local economy, the service producing industries added 57 jobs, but the growth belies serious volatility, pointed out Hanni.

Construction permit data and gross taxable sales at establishments operating in Carbon County point to better economic health, added Hanni.

Retail trade, government (mainly due to cuts in education) and professional and business services posted double-digit declines. The losses were offset by gains in health care, accommodations and food services.

Unincorporated Carbon County experienced increased construction activity in fourth quarter 2004. When the latest data is compared, the value of permits issued for the unincorporated areas rose roughly 155 percent. The jump made up for losses in Carbon's towns, allowing the county wide total valuation to rise from $4.84 million in 2003 to $8.14 million in 2004.

After several quarters of remaining steady at 5 percent growth, year-over taxable sales in fourth quarter 2004 jumped by 13.3 percent. Business investment purchases leapt, suggesting that the county's economic health is indeed improving, explained Hanni.

Echoing the increase, wholesale and retail sales were robust in the quarter. Service sales, while smaller in magnitude, also grew, helped in part by a near doubling in hotel and lodging sales, concluded the department of workforce services regional economist.

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