Utah's unemployment rate declined a tenth of one percent in February to 2.8 percent.
Ken Jensen, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said the February jobless rate is a half-point below the 3.3 percent recorded a year ago.Some 30,700 Utahns were out of work last month, compared to 33,400 in February 1997.
The national unemployment rate, at 4.6 percent, was also 0.1 percent below January and well below the 5.3 percent recorded in February 1997.
Jensen said the state's other employment economic indicator, the year-over growth rate of nonfarm jobs, now stands at 3.9 percent.
"This is the first time since November 1992 that job growth has been less than 4.0 percent. The gradual decline in the year-over job growth rates, which began in mid-1996, seemed to have stabilized at 4.1 percent in the last four months of 1997."
Jensen said the decline may have resumed in February, or the current dip may be just a temporary fluctuation within a plateau, but he emphasized that Utah's economy remains strong.
Since February 1997 Utah's employers created about 38,000 net new nonfarm jobs. The private sector produced 33,000 of those new positions, a 4.1 percent growth rate and slightly higher than the 3.0 percent growth in government jobs.
Manufacturers added 3,000 net new jobs during those 12 months, a growth rate of 2.3 percent. That's slower than recent years but remains faster than the U.S. average for the industry, which is less than 1 percent.
Services, Utah's largest sector, also has slowed. From 8.6 percent in December 1996, it dropped to 4.6 percent in December 1997, then recovered slightly in February to 4.9 percent.