Carbon County's labor market exhibited renewed strength in first quarter 2005, despite the fact that Utah coal production dropped to 21.8 million short tons in 2004 for the lowest level recorded statewide since 1993.
The low production level was primarily caused by temporary closures at Skyline and Emery mines as well as decreased activity at local operations due to labor problems, conditions and longwall shifts, indicated the 2004 coal report issued by the Utah Geological Survey.
Nevertheless, Carbon County managed to post a 2.2 percent employment expansion rate during first quarter 2005, confirmed the latest data compiled by the department of workforce services.
The job growth was spread unevenly throughout the county, leaving some industries expanding while other employment sectors contracted, explained DWS regional economist Michael Hanni.
One noteworthy example is manufacturing, which witnessed significant increases in employment - important for the county because the jobs tend to pay higher wages, continued Hanni.
Carbon County's economic indicators point to a stabilizing local economy.
On the surface, the number of jobs in Carbon County climbed 2.2 percent in the one-year period between first quarter 2004 and 2005.
During the last 12 months, the county has added a net of 187 employment opportunities.
Getting into the details of the 87 jobs reveals interesting employment trends, commented the DWS regional economist.
The traditional goods-producing industries - mining, manufacturing and construction - experienced mixed fortunes.
Manufacturing prospered, adding 96 positions in Carbon County, primarily in metal and machinery production.
Mining, on the other hand, remained stagnant in Carbon County in first quarter 2005, continued Hanni.
Coal mining reported slight gains to offset losses in oil and gas production and services.
Construction jobs suffered in Carbon County, with the industry shedding 21 jobs in the one-year period for a nearly 10 percent decline, indicated Hanni.
On the service-producing side of the economy, similar shifts in fortune are apparent. The wholesale and retail trade industries, coupled with transportation, saw steady employment growth, adding 111 jobs.
Rising accommodation and food services employment likely added to the growth noted Hanni. Dragging down the employment surge in Carbon County were professional-business services, repair-maintenance and waste management.
Construction permit activity showed increased vigor in first quarter of 2005. Total new permit construction valuation climbed 56.4 percent to $3.3 million, pointed out the DWR regional economist. When compared to 2004, the valuation of new permits for residential construction in the county jumped 69.6 percent to reach roughly $1.6 million. Non-residential construction was also up, but to a lesser extent.
Remodeling activity for homes and nonresidential structures surged, playing a significant role in driving up the county's total new permit construction valuation.
Taxable sales continued to grow in the first quarter of 2005, posting a 4.1 percent increase compared to the same quarter last year. While the percentage increase was down from the torrid pace of the previous quarter, any growth in sales is welcome, commented Hanni. The main catalyst for the quarter's increase came from strong retail and wholesale trade sales.
Wholesale durable goods and retail sales of motor vehicles were brisk. The service sector of the economy also posted gains, with hotel and lodging sales more than doubling in the one-year year.
The one shadow on the sales data would be the marked slowdown in business investment purchases in mining and manufacturing, perhaps signaling slowing in the industries in Carbon County, concluded the DWS regional economist.