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Carbon County reports expanding employment

Carbon County continued to post expanding employment levels in August.

The latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate Carbon's economy created more than 220 employment opportunities during the 12-month period between August 2005 and August 2004. The increase represents a 2.5 percent job growth rate.

Carbon County reported 8,694 non-farm wage and salaried positions last month compared to 8,479 in 2004.

At the state level, Utah's unemployment rate for August 2005 registered at 4.4 percent, down 0.8 percentage points from August 2004.

Approximately 55,200 Utahns were unemployed in August 2005, compared to 63,000 in 2004 when the statewide jobless rate stood at 5.2 percent.

Utah's second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the year-over change in the number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs, registered at 3.6 percent statewide.

The statewide employment expansion level represented a slight upward movement from July's 3.5 percent and the growth rates observed during the last several months.

"This month's numbers are all reflective of the economic environment prior to the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina.The Utah economy is standing on a solid foundation and is well-positioned to take the economic punch that is anticipated to come from Katrina, particularly through higher energy prices. We saw the immediate affect of Katrina on gasoline prices at the pump and it is not anticipated that they will drop anytime soon. In addition, there is another round yet to come this winter, when we will also be paying more for our heating costs. This short-term outlook leads one to conclude that the economy will see some slowing in the months ahead," commented Mark Knold, department of workforce services economist.

Utah's employment expansion remained evident across all industries statewide in August.

Employment gains ranged from 600 jobs in the natural resources-mining classification to 8,800 in professional-business services and 8,600 in construction.

The professional-business services and construction sectors accounted for 44 percent of the employment opportunities created throughout the state in the past year.

As a whole, the professional and business services sector pays about 14 percent higher wages than the Utah average. Not all jobs in the sector are high-paying though. Some of the business services jobs are temporary help and placement-type positions, and they are generally not characterized by high pay. But they do make up less than half (42 percent) of the new jobs added in this classification. The remaining majority are high-paying, professional, knowledge- and education-based jobs. That portion shows average wages around 55 percent higher than the overall Utah average wage.

Construction added 8,600 new jobs over the past year. That is a growth rate of over 11 percent. Strong employment growth has been observed in this sector for well over a year now. Housing activity remains the key driver, but nonresidential projects are also making a significant contribution to the construction boom.

The education-health care sector shows no signs of weakening, developing 2,800 jobs statewide in the last 12 months. Since August 2000, 22,600 education and health care jobs have been added here in Utah.

"I'm assuming that the question on everyone's mind is how Hurricane Katrina will affect the economy, not only nationally, but also here in Utah. It appears that economic growth will be hobbled by this event. I believe that it will have more of a negative impact on the national economy than it will on the Utah economy. Even then, it is hard not to see this event slowing the Utah economy. Nationally, I don't see a recession, but the economic momentum seen over the past year will be deflated. I believe this was going to happen anyway, as the worldwide energy market was slowly but steadily pushing energy prices higher, and there eventually comes a point where the economy will react negatively. Katrina may have set this slowdown in motion," indicated Knold.

Since August 2004, the United States economy added 2.3 million jobs for a nationwide growth rate of 1.7 percent. Utah's economy created approximately 39,900 employment opportunities statewide for a growth rate of 3.6 percent. The Utah additions represent about 1.7 percent of all jobs added in the U.S, during the last year. The nation's unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent in August.

"I see two major areas of economic impact. The first will be in higher energy prices and that will come in two waves. The first will be over the next two months in high, and probably higher, gasoline and jet fuel prices. The second wave will come during the winter months with higher heating bills. Heating oil is the most volatile energy product and may be in short supply, but that has more impact on eastern states than it does here in Utah. Natural gas is our major heating fuel and, though not in short supply, it will be more costly because of the disruptions back east. That means not only will our natural gas bills be higher, but also our electricity bills since natural gas is a major fuel for that industry," explained Knold.

"The second impact will be in transportation disruptions that will cause short-term bottlenecks and supply disruptions nationwide. Utah ships much of its export flow through California ports, but they are already operating at full bore. One must assume that they may be asked to handle an increased flow of goods, affecting not only exports but also imports. This suggests bottlenecks. The bottlenecks in the west, however, will probably not be as bad or cause as much impact on the western United States as will the bottlenecks back east. But taken as a whole, everyone will feel some negative effect, some areas more than others. Because of Utah's relative distance from the Gulf Coast and a market focus that looks more west than east, our economy should not be severely impacted. Our commerce is tied more to California and the western United States than to the Gulf Coast. But we will feel some impact. Utah currently has one of the best-performing economies in the nation. If something negative is to happen, it helps to be at a high level when such an event occurs," concluded Knold.

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