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Utah economic recovery 'on solid footing,' Herbert says

Published: Friday, Nov. 18 2011 4:47 p.m. MST

The 2011 Economic Report portrayed a strengthening recovery in Utah, though the global financial crisis that began in 2008 continues to influence economic growth in Utah and every state.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Economically speaking, Utah is in recovery mode.

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget Friday released the 2011 Economic Report to the Governor. The report portrayed a strengthening recovery, though the global financial crisis that began in 2008 continues to influence economic growth in Utah and every state, said Juliette Tennert, chief economist for the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget.

"The indicators … are showing us that our economy has markedly improved," Tennert said. The year-over-year increase in employment is among the leading indicators of the state's overall economic progress, she said.

"We went through several years of declines in the number of jobs in Utah," Tennert explained. "We are now in a position where we are adding jobs to the economy."

She added that the recovery is "measured," but still exhibiting signs of positive growth.

The state Department of Workforce Services reported Thursday that nearly all of Utah’s industrial sectors are adding jobs, with manufacturing employment up by as much as 6,500 jobs over the past 12 months.

The industrial sector leading Utah’s employment growth is professional and business services, which is up 7,500 positions. Half of the jobs are in the professional and technical industries, such as engineering, computer systems design and consulting.

The remaining growth can be attributed to employment service businesses, which supply workers to other businesses and industries.

In 2009 and 2010, Utah experienced job growth in only one of 10 private industry sectors. DWS reported that in 2011, nine of 10 private industry sectors experienced employment growth.

Assuming the national economic expansion continues, Utah’s growth will accelerate above the pace of the past two years, the report states.

“Utah typically grows more rapidly than the nation after recessions and this pattern is taking hold in the current recovery,” Tennert said.

If the national economy remains on a path of a moderate recovery, Utah’s economy is expected to grow at a higher rate than experienced since the expansion began in the summer of 2009, the report states.

"The recovery in Utah is pretty broad-based," Tennert said. "The recovery is taking hold across the (entire) economy, not just in a particular industry."

Tennert said Utah would likely come out of the recession more quickly than the nation as a whole in 2012, with employment growing at 2.7 percent compared to 0.6 percent for the U.S. The report stated that the number of Utahns with gainful employment would increase to 1.24 million — 30,000 more jobs than in 2011. Average wages are expected to grow 3.2 percent to $41,071, which combined with inflation of 1.3 percent will boost real pay 1.9 percent.

Overall, Utah has mirrored the other mountain region states in its economic performance during the recession and recovery, though there is some variation between states. Total personal income increased in 2011 for all the mountain states, but New Mexico was the only state in the region in which median household income grew.

Unemployment rates decreased in every mountain state except Montana.

Despite a decline in regional unemployment, poverty rates have continued to climb in most of the mountain states, the report states. Utah and Wyoming have low poverty rates, while Arizona and New Mexico have high poverty.

“We have reason to be optimistic about our future," said Gov. Gary Herbert. "Risks remain and there may be bumps in the road ahead, but the 2011 report provides reason to believe that the economic recovery in Utah is on solid footing." 

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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