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Production industries fuel county's expanding economy, labor market

Job growth in Carbon County picked up significantly during first quarter 2006.

Compared with last year, the county posted a net gain of 520 employment opportunities for an increase of 6 percent.

The primary catalysts for the expanding labor force were the goods producing industries-mining, construction and manufacturing, indicated Utah Department of Workforce Services regional economist Michael Hanni.

The three industries witnessed strong double-digit growth.

In response, the county's service producing industries reported increasing workforce numbers.

Retail trade, temporary employment and health care reported the largest first quarter 2006 increases in Carbon County's service producing sector.

Interestingly, the local industry that showed the largest employment loss was local government, dropping 28 positions, pointed out Hanni.

The bulk of the job losses were in elementary school employment in Carbon County.

Neighboring Emery County saw first quarter employment grow 7.0 percent, with a net gain of 250 jobs.

The largest gains were seen in the construction industry, which added 100 jobs in Emery County.

Industrial construction projects appear to be the main driver in the industry, though some residential and commercial employment gains were noted, pointed out the DWS regional economist.

The mining and utilities industries posted solid, though smaller employment gains.

Emery County's service producing industries remained relatively stable, although transportation created 47 jobs for a 39 percent gain.

The southeastern region's construction industry is in full swing.

The latest employment data available from first quarter 2006 show that the southeastern region's construction companies added 136 jobs compared with 2005 figures, noted Hanni.

The increase translates into a 15.2 percent growth. The overall number of jobs in the region grew 5.3 percent.

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

Although the bulk of the employment gains reported in the construction industry have been associated with non-residential activities, the housing market throughout the region remains solid

Between 1995 and 2005, the housing market in all four counties has undergone significant changes. In three of the four counties - Carbon, Emery and Grand - the average annual growth in valuation during the 11-year period exceeded the state's rate.

The fast growth rates put a significant pinch on the already lower incomes of the area's residents.

Likewise, the average annual increase in valuation for manufactured and mobile homes increased at double-digit rates while mean annual wages climbed, on average, between 2 percent to 3 percent per year.

An additional change to the local housing market is in the composition of the units being permitted. Single-family dwellings and manufactured homes typically make up 80 percent to 90 percent of the unit permits issued annually. But the numbers have changed substantially.

In 1995, single-family home permits made up 36 percent of the total housing permits issued. By 2005, the number climbed to 52 percent. Manufactured homes, on the other hand, showed a striking inverse performance.

For example, in 1998 a full 59 percent of the permits were for manufactured homes in 1998. In 2005, that number dropped to 29 percent.

"What can be said for these dynamics in the local housing market? Well, while the data seem to suggest that construction activity is quite strong, the homes being permitted for construction appear to be inordinately those carrying hefty price tags. This price/supply dynamic is an important one as it will determine, in the long run, who will be able to live in these communities. Higher home prices do bring benefits - especially to those who already own a home. However, to those looking to buy, they can be a tough pill to swallow," concluded the DWS regional economist.

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