Slower growth in Utah's total personal income may reduce consumer spending, causing a business-conditions index for Utah to slip.

The Zions Bank Business Conditions Index, released Tuesday, was 99.5 in February, down from a revised 100.9 in January.

The index uses 100.0 for calendar year 1997 as its base, with a lower index number indicating less-favorable business conditions measured from the viewpoint of a Utah small-business owner or manager.

"Less-impressive employment creation during 2007, as well as sluggish job gains expected in 2008 and 2009, will lead to slower growth in Utah total personal income," said the report's author, Jeff Thredgold, president of Thredgold Economic Associates and economic consultant to Zions Bank. "Such income is the primary contributor to overall consumer spending in the state and typically consists of more people working and a modest rise in the average wage."

Total personal income and retail sales are among the index components. The most heavily weighted component, Utah's unemployment rate, was at 3.3 percent in January, up from 3.2 percent in the prior month. Thredgold noted, however, that it compared with 2.6 percent during the same month a year ago. The 2.3 percent rate in February 2007 was the lowest ever recorded in Utah.

A higher Utah unemployment rate is a positive contributor to the index, because it implies increased access to Utah labor.

Utah's job growth, meanwhile, also cooled. Total employment is up an estimated 33,800 during the past year, but the prior year-over-year period featured growth of 44,000 jobs.

The national economy lost an estimated 63,000 net jobs in February, when the national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent.

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