Utah's labor-market performance is No. 2 in the United States, after Nevada, according to a study released this week.

Utah's labor market ranked No. 3 in North America after Alberta and Nevada. The Fraser Institute, which describes itself an independent research and educational organization based in Calgary, Canada, has conducted the study for the past four years.

This year's study used data from the federal governments in the United States and Canada. The researchers looked at job creation, unemployment and productivity to assess U.S. and Canadian labor-market performance over five years, from 2003-07.

Utah's total employment rate was 3.5 percent from 2003-07. The study defined total employment as full-time and part-time employment in public and private sectors, but did not include self-employment.

The unemployment rate in Utah was relatively higher than other states, averaging at 4.1 percent from 2003-07. Hawaii recorded the lowest average unemployment during that time. All the top-10 states had average unemployment rates of 3.9 percent or less.

Only 11 percent of unemployed Utahns remained out of work for 27 weeks or more. Duration indicates "the severity of unemployment," the study said. In Alberta, the average duration was 7.2 weeks, the least amount of time of all the states and provinces studied. New York had the longest amount of time, 25.5 weeks.

The study discussed the negative aspects of labor unionization, which the study's authors believe "impede labor market flexibility." Utah is a "right to work state" and the number of labor unions is 6.5 percent of total employment. North Carolina had the least, 3.9 percent, and Quebec had the most, 40.2 percent.

Jason Perry, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said that Utah has improved in the areas that the Fraser study looked at, such as employment and unemployment.

"That is certainly something that shows the improvement in the economy in the last three to four years," he said. "That's the time when we started to rise in these rankings. There have been more opportunities in Utah than there had been in the past" to get a new job or a promotion at a current job.

Although the United States is in an economic slowdown, Utah's economy is doing relatively well. "One sector that has lost jobs in the past several months is residential construction, but we have job growth in all other categories in the state," Perry said. "We're one of the few sates right now that does have positive job growth."


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