Job growth in Utah continued to slow in April, providing more evidence that the state's economy is cooling, according to a Utah Department of Workforce Services report released Tuesday.

Nonfarm wage and salaried job growth in Utah was 2 percent in April, down from 2.1 percent in March. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.1 percent, down from 3.3 percent in March. State economists said the March number was considered abnormal in what has been a trend of increases in the unemployment rate. For instance, the rate in February was 3 percent.

Nationally, job growth in April was 0.3 percent. In March, it was 0.4 percent. Unemployment nationally was 5 percent, down from 5.1 in March.

"Yes, the Utah economy is cooling, but that was expected," said Kendall Oliphant, senior vice president of Thredgold Economic Associates. "A year or two years ago, Utah's economy was just booming, with job growth over 5 percent. Most economists believed it wasn't sustainable."

The industry with the most job losses was construction, with 3,000 jobs lost.

"Construction in general has gone down 3 percent over the past year in Utah," Oliphant said. "Residential construction has gone down even more than that."

Nationally, one-tenth fewer people were unemployed. That could indicate that there were fewer people unemployed, or that the unemployed simply gave up searching for a job and were classified differently on the unemployment survey, Oliphant said.

Despite the lackluster numbers, about 24,800 new jobs were created in the Utah economy over the past year, roughly 2,000 new jobs created each month.

Mark Knold, chief economist for the Department of Workforce Services, said that Utah's economy is stronger than the U.S. economy, which "struggles to keep itself out of or just barely in a recession."

While housing construction jobs in Utah have been lost, "the economy is anchored by job gains in industries that are less susceptible to swings in the business cycle — health care, education and government."


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com