Utah's unemployment rate dropped 0.1 point to 3.1 percent in May, reversing a two-month trend of increases.
But Ken Jensen, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said not all of the employment news was positive last month."More noteworthy is that the year-over increase in the number of nonfarm jobs in Utah dropped to 3.3 percent in May 1998," Jensen said in a press release. "This is the first time since September 1992 that Utah's job growth has been this slow."
Job growth hit 5.3 percent in mid-1996 and has gradually declined over the last 21 months, Jensen said. But even at 3.3 percent, the rate is only slightly below Utah's long-term average increase of 3.6 percent.
"Utah's diversified economy remains strong," said Bob Gross, executive director of the Department of Workforce Services. "This minor slowdown is not surprising, considering the rapid growth we sustained for several years."
Between May 1997 and May 1998, Utah's employers created about 33,000 net new nonfarm jobs. The private sector produced 27,000 of those positions.
The state's 3.1 percent unemployment rate for May 1998 was the same as the 1997 annual average and translates into about 33,000 Utahns without work during the month.
By comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate remained at its 28-year low of 4.3 percent in May, far below the May 1997 rate of 4.8 percent. The Labor Department said the nation's employers added 296,000 jobs to their payrolls in May, nearly matching the robust 302,000 gain in April.
Along the Wasatch Front, unemployment in Davis County fell from 3.1 percent in April to 2.7 percent in May. Weber County also saw a drop, from 4.2 to 3.9 percent.
Salt Lake County's unemployment rate of 2.8 percent in April edged down to 2.7 percent in May, and Utah County's rate dropped from 2.7 percent in April to 2.4 percent in May.
The rate for the Salt Lake-Ogden metro area was down to 2.9 percent in May from 3.1 percent in April.