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Utah tops in job growth

56,800 nonfarm jobs added in a year is best in U.S., report says

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 15 2007 12:03 a.m. MDT

It may sound like a broken record, but Utah's job growth nonetheless is topping the charts.

The state's nonfarm job growth in July was 4.7 percent when compared with a year ago, and the 56,800 jobs added during that period is the best among all states, according to figures released Tuesday by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

"I would characterize this as more of the same," said Mark Knold, chief economist for the department. "We've been sounding like a broken record this entire year in terms of the high job growth and a very low unemployment rate. So far, we're just continuing to maintain that kind of trend as we're going through 2007."

The 4.7 percent growth rate compares with an average of 3.3 percent per year that Utah has experienced since 1950 and equates to about 4,700 jobs being added each month. And it far outshines the national job growth rate of 1.3 percent in July.

Put another way, while Utah has less than 1 percent of all U.S. jobs, it accounts for about 3.2 percent of the country's new jobs.

Utah's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in July was 2.7 percent, up from 2.6 percent in June but down from 2.9 percent in July 2006. About 36,000 Utahns were without work in July, compared with 38,300 a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the national jobless rate in July was 4.6 percent.

Knold described Utah as being the bull's-eye of long-term growth in the West, and he's currently at a loss to see anything that could torpedo that.

"I'm sure there is, but I'm just not seeing what it is," he said.

One possibility is not having enough in-migration to meet the state's labor demands.

"Throughout this year, we've avoided that, obviously. We're getting strong amounts of in-migration. And the best news in that respect is the United States' economy is weak and showing signs of getting weaker," Knold said. "So what you end up with is incentives in other parts of the country for idled workers to look to Utah, to come here to work. The nation's economy is providing an incentive for those workers to come here."

Another potential trouble spot could stem from lessened demand for workers, perhaps from a mortgage crisis or a disruption in plans for building construction.

"The chances of that seem to be pretty small to me, so it's very difficult to even see any clouds on the horizon, let alone identifying one or two possible ones. We're just really in some kind of a groove right now," Knold said.

"The thing that gets you the most is you know that things change. You know that at some point in time, something will change. You just don't know when, and the hardest part is even what could be the triggering mechanism to do that. But it does seem like we have enough momentum this year that we will probably be able to keep rolling this thing right on through this year and right on into next."

The largest year-over-year percentage job gains are in natural resources and construction. Construction added 13,700 jobs since last summer, or 13.8 percent.

The department's figures show Utah County's job growth of 6 percent is the best for any metro area in the state and probably one of the best in the entire country. That county's construction growth rate is 20 percent year over year.

The department also noted that Washington County's growth rate of 5.2 percent is actually healthy because rates topping 10 percent the past two years have stressed the economy by creating a labor shortage and putting a crimp in maintaining infrastructure.


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com

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