Utah's job growth slowed in March, and analysts predict that the state may follow that course for some time.

Nonfarm wage and salaried job growth for March was estimated at 2.1 percent, according to a report from the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

March's growth was slower than February's rate, which was 2.3 percent. The report said that about 26,200 new jobs have been created in the Utah economy over the past year, translating into approximately 2,200 new jobs created each month.

"Job growth is definitely slowing, but we're still on top of much of the nation," said Kendall Oliphant, senior vice president of Thredgold Economic Associates.

Oliphant said his definition of a recession for a state is negative job growth, and he doesn't expect Utah to see a recession during this current economic slowdown. But the state's job growth could fall into the 1.5 percent to 2 percent range in the coming months, he said. Even so, Utah would likely remain as one of the biggest job producing states in the nation.

The Department of Workforce Services reported that Utah's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was up slightly to 3.3 percent in March, compared with 3.0 percent in February. The number of unemployed Utahns increased to approximately 46,200 people in March, compared with 33,000 residents last March.

The national unemployment rate moved up three-tenths of a percentage point in March to 5.1 percent.

"The national employment picture remains weak and weakening, probably sitting in the middle of a recession," said the department's chief economist Mark Knold in a news release.

"Utah's economy is being pulled down by this, and the first and most noted industry feeling its negative effects is construction," he said. "The nation's credit crunch has so negatively influenced the Utah housing market that new housing approvals over the past six months are below half of what normally is approved."

According to the report, Utah lost 2,100 construction jobs in the past year. Knold said that Utah might easily shed 10,000 construction jobs over the next two years.

But he said he is encouraged by how well the remainder of the Utah economy is holding up and performing, with high-paying professional jobs still growing and in demand.

"Slowing the Utah economy after three years of stellar growth may not be as much of a negative as first emotions might suggest," Knold said. "There are dangers to overheating an economy, as excesses can develop, resulting in more pain later when correcting those excesses."

E-mail: [email protected]