In spite of a few ominous signs about Utah's unemployment picture, the labor market should remain healthy in 1991, according to Floyd Astin, Utah Department of Employment Security administrator.

His comments came in an unemployment review for 1990 and a look forward to 1991.Astin said Utah's labor force ended the 1980s with one of the best economic postures

of the decade and that 1990 reflected the same strength. During 1989, non-farm jobs increased 4.7 percent and they increased 4.6 percent in 1990 while Utah's unemployment rate in 1989 was 4.6 percent and in 1990 it dropped to 4.5 percent.

While the Utah labor force is healthy, Astin said the state will be affected somewhat by the downturn in the national economy. "Utah unemployment should remain relatively low and job growth moderate. Still, if the U.S. slump proves longer and more severe than currently anticipated, Utah could feel strong economic pains," said Astin.

Astin said non-farm employment will grow between 3 percent and 4 percent in 1991 or 24,000 new jobs, down from the 31,500 new jobs created in 1990. Most of the growth will come in the service industry, which was the big creator of jobs in the 1980s, with 11,000 new jobs.

Trade will provide many new Utah jobs in 1991, a 3 percent increase compared with a 4 percent increase in 1990. Astin said increases in wholesale trade are expected to remain small while growth in retail trade slows.

He said the construction and transportation/communications/utilities sectors will expand at a 3 percent clip in 1991. Several large non-residential projects are in the works, and residential building seems to be holding strong while transportation employment growth (except railroad positions) should be solid enough to counter recent losses.

Astin expects manufacturing employment to be slow in 1991 but still positive. Firms in several manufacturing sectors have downsized their staffs already, and increases in other areas should be solid enough to keep the entire industry on the good side of the ledger.

"All in all, manufacturing jobs should expand by 2.5 percent. Government expansion also should be about 2.5 percent, and Utah is destined to lose a number of federal jobs because of defense spending cuts. However, growth in state and local government employment (particularly in education) should more than offset federal losses," Astin said.

The finance/insurance/real estate and mining industries will experience slower job growth in 1991, he said, and by the year's end mining probably will lose a few positions. The number of jobs created in these sectors will be a lackluster 1.5 percent increase.

Talking about the downturn in the national economy, Astin said job growth will be slow but remain moderate. Unemployment will edge up but remain low compared with most of the 1980s.

"Some Utahns may face agonizing labor force adjustments as individual industries expand and contract. But, in general, Utah's economy should weather the national downturn nicely," he said.