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Joblessness dips in county

Carbon County's unemployment rate continues to fluctuate, with local joblessness dipping to 6.1 percent in April from 6.3 percent in March 2002. By comparison, Carbon County reported a 6.6 percent unemployment rate in April 2001.

Neighboring Emery County posted decreasing joblessness, with the rate dropping to 8.1 percent in April from 9.5 percent in March 2002. In April 2001, Emery's jobless rate registered at 9.2 percent.

At the regional level, unemployment in the southeastern district declined to 7.2 percent in April from 7.8 percent in March 2002. The region experienced 7.6 percent joblessness in April 2001.

The southeastern district encompasses Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties.

At the state level, Utah's unemployment rate measured 5.7 percent in April, down slightly from March's 5.9 percent reading.

"The downward direction is encouraging," noted Mark Knold, senior economist for the state's department of workforce services.

"The next few months should tell us whether March's 5.9 percent will be the high-point of Utah's unemployment rate run-up," added the senior economist.

Approximately 66,100 Utahns were unemployed last month, a 46 percent increase from the 45,200 in April 2001 when the rate was 4.1 percent.

Utah's second primary indicator of current labor market conditions, the year-over change in the number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs, showed a loss of 1.2 percent or 13,200 fewer employment positions.

The state economy is experiencing the first significant contraction in 20 years, indicated the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

"There are fundamental factors in Utah that make our economy solid and our future bright, even in the face of this current slowdown. Our prosperity ran for such an extended period - it was inevitable that a contraction would eventually occur," pointed out workforce services director Raylene Ireland.

For the United States, the April 2002 unemployment rate moved up three-tenths of a point to 6.0 percent.

Since posting the recent low of 3.9 percent in October 2000, the nationwide jobless rate has increased by 2.1 percentage points and the number of unemployed Americans has climbed by 3.1 million.

Despite recent declarations of a positive economic direction by analysts, employment in the U.S. is not reflecting gains.

Non-farm employment remains down by 1.0 percent below April 2001's total.

Mining, construction, manufacturing, transportation/communications/utilities and trade in Utah are all operating with fewer employees.

Combined, the industries account for 46 percent of the state's employment base. The industries' total job contraction equals 19,500.

The remaining industries of finance/insurance/real estate, services and government make up 54 percent of Utah's economy and have added 6,300 new jobs year-over.

In summary, the smaller segment of the state's economy is having the largest influence on Utah's current downturn, pointed out workforce services.

Employment opportunities in the state's construction sector are plummeting. April's decline registered 8.4 percent for a drop of 5,700 jobs.

Utah's manufacturing industries have been hit hard by the economic downturn and are employing the lowest number of workers at 119,900 since 1994.

The manufacturing sector in Utah peaked in late 1997 at 135,000 workers. The sector then witnessed an unsteady decline until 2000, when manufacturing witnessed a s sharp drop.

The current employment in the state's manufacturing dvision represents an 11 percent decline since the 1997 peak.

Two of the hardest hit areas are primary metals and transportation equipment.

The industry conglomeration of transportation/communications/utilities represents another soft spot in Utah's economy.

The sector posted a 4.6 percent year-over drop for a loss of 2,200 jobs. Trucking and the communications industry are the weak links.

Trucking jobs number 1,400 fewer statewide, due primarily to the national slowdown. The U.S. slowdown was prompted by major readjustments within the country's technology sector.

Excessive growth produced inefficiencies and overcapacity. In response, the communications industry in Utah dropped about 500 positions within the past year.

Utah's trade industry is experiencing employment declines, but the pace is moderating. March, trade showed a year-over 2.3 percent decrease. The percentage moderated to a 1.7 percent loss in April.

The trade industry employs approximately 163,600 Utahns, but the number represents 2,800 fewer positions than a year ago. Grocery, department, furniture, and home/focus stores all have fewer workers. Only restaurants and auto dealers/service stations are maintaining stable employment.

Services is the state's largest employment industry with 318,500 workers. The sector grew by 0.5 percent during the year. The computer industry is still struggling and will probably continue to experience woes throughout the year, according to the department of workforce services.

Hotel employment is another weak area across Utah, but other services categories are helping cover the job losses.

Health care, engineering and management, legal and personal services as well as non-profit organizations in the state are doing well and adding workers.

The finance/insurance/real estate grouping has manage to remain on the positive side of the employment ledger. Several months ago, the division's employment growth was around 2.4 percent.

In April, job expansion in the sector slipped to 0.3 percent, an increase of 200 positions. Banking employment is down and mortgage-lending activity is slowing.

Government employment grew by 2.3 percent or 4,400 positions statewide last month.

The majority of the employment expansions posted at the state and local jurisdictions centered around educational components, concluded the workforce services department.

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