Looking for a job in retail, health care or the food and accommodations industries?

You probably won't need to wait to land one.

A recent survey conducted by the Utah Department of Workforce Services shows that those industries accounted for many of the job openings in a nine-county metro area.

The fourth-quarter 2007 job-vacancy survey of nearly 3,500 employers in three regions shows that the nine-county metro area had 3.3 job vacancies for every 100 jobs. That's up from 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005 and translates in about 34,700 open positions in Salt Lake, Utah, Wasatch, Weber, Summit, Morgan, Davis, Tooele and Juab counties.

The open jobs in the most recent survey period offered pay averaging $13.10 per hour. While up from $12.20 per hour in 2005, after adjusting for inflation, the pay growth amounts to only 20 cents per hour.

Occupations with the most openings were food preparation and service workers, retail salespeople, cashiers, registered nurses and customer service representatives.

But the number of construction jobs available, and the wages for those jobs, decreased in the fourth quarter of last year from the fourth quarter of 2005.

The Job Vacancy Study surveyed nearly 3,500 employees across every major industrial sector except for agriculture during the fourth quarter of 2007 in three population centers of the state. The last time the Department of Workforce Services performed the study was in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Wages in construction decreased from $16.30 an hour to $14.90 an hour in the fourth quarter of 2007 in the nine-county region that comprises 80 percent of the state's economic activity — Salt Lake, Utah, Wasatch, Weber, Summit, Morgan, Davis, Tooele and Juab counties.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services did not factor in for inflation, and the real decrease in wages would have been more dramatic, said Nate Talley, the department economist who supervised the study.

In the fourth quarter of 2005, the vacancy rate for construction jobs was 5.3 percent, meaning there were 5.3 vacancies for every 100 jobs in construction. In 2007, the vacancy rate was 3.9 percent.

"So we're seeing a slowing down of previously strong industries such as construction," Talley said in an interview.

The figures were presented Friday at a meeting of the Governor's Office of Economic Development Board.

Board member Richard Nelson, who is president and chief executive officer of the Utah Technology Council, questioned some of the tech-related stats, saying they were "understated" because he knows of several high-tech companies that have many openings for jobs that pay well.

But several board members said the dozens of figures in the study — available at jobs.utah.gov/opencms/wi/pubs/jvs2008 — show Utah needs to do more to train young people for the jobs that are available. Talley said workers in occupations experiencing a slowdown — for example, construction — do not have the training needed to move into an industry with labor needs, such as health care.

Sixty-six percent of the metro job openings required some form of postsecondary training, led by health care. Nurses, both registered and licensed-vocational, and nursing aides accounted for 43 percent of the vacancies.

But training more Utahns apparently has hurdles. Board member Jack Brittain, vice president for technology venture development and dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, said more students could be in the business school if the university had more faculty and more classrooms.

"We're just not funded (enough) to teach them," he said.

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