Utah's unemployment rate drifted up 0.1 point to 3.2 percent in June, matching the figure from June 1997, the state Department of Workforce Services reported Thursday.
Ken Jensen, the department's chief economist, said the state's unemployment rate has been extremely stable for the past 15 months, fluctuating between 2.9 and 3.2 percent.About 34,800 Utahns were unemployed in June, up 1,900 from the same month last year. But Jensen said the slight growth in unemployment and several layoff and furlough announcements by major Utah employers over the last few weeks do not indicate a deteriorating economy.
"Most are the result of efforts by large corporations to improve profitability following mergers or other major actions," he said.
Since the layoffs will not occur for several weeks, Jensen said, he expects minimal impact on the unemployment rate when they do occur.
Nationwide, Asian economic turmoil and the General Motors strike slowed job growth in June, pushing the U.S. unemployment rate up to 4.5 percent from a 28-year-low during the two previous months.
Despite the increase, from 4.3 percent, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained well below the 5 percent rate of a year ago, the Labor Department said Thursday.
"It was still quite low by recent historical standards," said Katharine G. Abraham, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The nation's employers added a moderate 205,000 jobs to their payrolls in June, compared with 309,000 in May. Most of the gains came in services. Manufacturers cut 29,000 jobs, the fourth decline in five months and the worst since March 1996.
That reflected drops in industries either facing stiff competition from Asian imports or loss of export sales to Asia, including apparel, textiles, paper products and electronic components.
In Utah, the increase in the number of non-farm jobs compared with last year was 3.3 percent for June.
"Although job growth is at a 67-month low, Utah's economy remains strong," Jensen said. "Our expansion has matured, and now we have eased into a slower growth mode, the pace of which is only slightly below Utah's long-term average increase of 3.6 percent."
The department said construction employment in Utah continues to slow, and its largest industrial division, services, also has experienced moderating job growth.
Along the Wasatch Front, June unemployment rates were 2.7 percent in Davis County, 4.1 percent in Weber County, 3.0 percent in Salt Lake County and 2.5 percent in Utah County. The rate for the Salt Lake-Ogden area was 3.1 percent.
The state's highest unemployment rate was in San Juan County, at 9 percent, and the lowest was in Rich County, at 1.3 percent.