Utah's unemployment rate drops to lowest since 2009

Published: Thursday, Dec. 15 2011 10:09 a.m. MST

Jamie Martinez, 30, looking for employment at Department of Workforce Services, Job Center Thursday, June 30, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Utah’s job market is strengthening as the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.4 percent in November, the lowest it has been since March 2009, according to a statement from the Utah Department of Workforce Services released Thursday.

The rate is 2.2 percentage points below the national average of 8.6 percent, which has been a trend even through the economic recession. The state has maintained an unemployment rate of at least 1.3 percentage points lower than that of the nation as a whole over the past five years. During that same time, Utah saw a 2.4 percent job growth.

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent in November, which is a drop of .4 percentage points from October’s rate.

Utah’s workforce expanded 2.5 percent, according to the statement, adding 30,300 jobs over the past 12 months.

“This is a good sign. It means we are on the right road, going in the right direction. But it’s certainly not time to relent. The number is still too high and we have more than 85,000 Utahns seeking jobs,” Gov. Gary Herbert said. “We have to stay focused on the basics of economic recovery — education, jobs and energy.”

The Beehive State, which has a total wage and salary employment of 1.2 million, has won numerous accolades for its healthy economy, including recently being named one of the best states for jobs by Forbes magazine. The financial report also declared Utah “the best state for business.”

Utah’s welcoming economy has attracted companies like Proctor & Gamble, Home Depot and Boeing, all of which announced expansion in Utah this year.

“I’m convinced if we stay true to prudent budget principles, ensure Utah is business friendly and prioritize the basics for economic recovery, Utah’s economic footing will remain sure and our future hopeful,” Herbert said.

Nearly every industrial sector in Utah has added jobs over the past 12 months, and employment is predicted to continue gaining in 2012, according to the Workforce Services report.

The professional and business industry contributed the most to Utah’s growth in November, according to the report. The sector added 9,200 jobs, with both manufacturing and leisure and hospitality trailing behind at 5,500.

Utah saw a drop of 1,500 government jobs, making the public sector the biggest loser in November.

Across the nation, the number of applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly dropped by 19,000 to 366,000, which is a sign that the job market is on the rise, according to Bloomberg.

The U.S. added 120,000 jobs in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The private sector added 140,000 jobs, 50,000 of which came from retailers, while the government slashed 20,000. The number of people losing jobs and persons who completed temporary jobs declined by 432,000 to 7.6 million.

National unemployment rates are expected to remain steady at 8.6 percent in 2013, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Though the unemployment rate has dropped, the Federal Reserve still has concerns about the job market.

“While indicators point to some improvement in overall labor market conditions, the unemployment rate remains elevated,” the Reserve said in a statement. The Reserve expects “exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013. The Committee will continue to assess the economic outlook in light of incoming information and is prepared to employ its tools to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability.”

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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