Gov. Norm Bangerter says his administration has helped create an "incredible" 20,400 jobs since October 1987 and that Utah's economy is doing better than Arizona's.
But Democratic officials say most of the jobs are low-paying and Utah's economy is not doing well.The latest campaign exchange came Thursday when Bangerter attended a news conference called by Great American-West Inc., an insurance company that recently moved to Salt Lake City. John Birmingham, company president, praised the governor for persuading the company to come to Utah and for later checking to make sure the company was hiring state residents. Many of the company's new employees attended the news conference.
Birmingham said the company has been able to find quality employees faster in Utah than in any other state.
Bangerter cited figures released from Job Service to show how many jobs have been created in the past year. He said the state's unemployment rate is 4.8 percent and that Utah ranks 17th nationally in the rate of job creation.
"Utah's economy is coming back strongly, while other states around us are losing ground," Bangerter said. "Utah really is doing well."
But Randy Horiuchi, state Democratic Party chairman, later said most of the new jobs are low-paying. He said Democratic candidate Ted Wilson would be more successful in raising the state's average wage.
"Gov. Bangerter has created a 7-Eleven economy," Horiuchi said, citing his own figures that show the state's average annual income has declined 6 percent compared with the national average since 1985.
Low unemployment figures mean little considering many people have left the state in search of work, Horiuchi said.
Bangerter, however, said most of the jobs created in the last year have been high-paying.
"Overall they're family sustaining type jobs," he said. "We've had a strong resurgence in manufacturing jobs, which tend to be higher paying."