Jobs up; small business index down in February

Published: Tuesday, March 13 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

In this Dec. 1, 2011 photo, job seekers attend a career fair in Overland Park, Kan.

Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — There was good news and some not so good news Tuesday on the Utah economic front, as some Utahns find work while a local index declines.

The Zions Bank Small Business Index for Utah was 112.8 in February 2012, down from a revised 115.9 in January of 2012.

Despite the lower index, Utah’s unemployment rate improved to an estimated 5.7 percent in the latest month, down from the 6.0 percent rate of the prior month.

Total Utah employment grew by an estimated 30,300 jobs during the past 12 months

Solid American employment gains of the past six months will lead to stronger personal income gains across the nation, bolstering Utah’s small businesses, according to index author and Zions Bank economic consultant Jeff Thredgold.

The U.S. economy saw a net rise of 227,000 jobs during February, slightly exceeding consensus expectations, he wrote. The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 8.3 percent in February — the lowest level in three years.

"We have long suggested that if and when U.S. employment gains were stronger, hundreds of thousands of people who had formerly left the labor force as discouraged workers would return to seek more readily available jobs," Thredgold said. "Such was the case in February. We expect more of the same in coming months, leading to no major downward move in the nation’s jobless rate prior to year-end."

More than 1.2 million new jobs have been added in the U.S. economy over the past six months, with a gain of nearly 3.4 million net new jobs since the end of 2009. However, such gains represented only 40 percent of the 8.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession, which ran from December 2007 to June 2009, he noted.

"It remains to be seen whether solid job gains, which lead to stronger consumer spending, will be able to lead U.S. economic growth higher," Thredgold said.

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