As an indication that Utah's economy is getting stronger in 1988, the Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University says Utah ranks 17th in the creation of jobs in the first eight months of 1988.

That is a much better ranking than the 42nd place in job creation the state occupied in 1987, according to center director Lee McPheters. He said Utah's job creation pace in 1987 was 0.8 percent higher than 1986, but the 1987 figure was 2.5 percent higher than 1987.Brian Cary, a senior economist at the center, said the job creation study is based upon figures provided by state departments of employment security. He said Utah's improved rating is attributed to the reopening of Geneva Steel, a resumption of copper mining at Kennecott Utah Copper and increases in the retail trade and service industries.

Cary said the severity of the slump in the construction business, although still a problem, has moderated a little in recent months.

Ray Sargent, a labor market economist for the Utah Department of Employment Security, said at this time last year the job growth rate in Utah was about 1 percent higher than the comparable previous period, but in the past three months it has increased to 3.1 percent over the comparable period a year ago.

In the period September 1986 to September 1987 about 8,000 jobs were created in Utah, but that increased to 17,000 jobs between September 1987 and September 1988.

The study showed that Nevada is creating jobs at a faster pace than any other state, a 5.7 percent clip. The other states in the top 10 were Florida, 4.7 percent; Maine, 4.6; Washington, 4.5; Oregon, 4.2; Virginia, 4.1; Indiana, 3.7; California, 3.6; Delaware, 3.5; and New Hampshire, 3.4.

"The biggest surprise this year is the comeback of some states that looked down and out in 1987," McPheters said. Beside the comeback made by Utah in the top 20, West Virginia, New Mexico and Texas were two other bottom 10 states that made comebacks.

Arizona slipped from 16th to 37th place and Montana, Colorado, Alaska and Wyoming also showed net job losses during the 12-month period, the survey showed.