SALT LAKE CITY — The Zions Bank Small Business Index for Utah was at 117.1 in January, up from a revised 114.2 during the previous month. Utah's unemployment rate for the first month of 2011 was unchanged at an estimated 7.5 percent — the same as December 2010.

Total Utah employment grew by an estimated 15,300 jobs during the past 12 months, the index stated.

The 7.5 percent jobless rate compared to a 6.6 percent rate during the same month one year ago, the index stated. A higher Utah unemployment rate is a positive contributor to the index as it implies increased access to Utah labor, according to the report's author Zions Bank economic consultant Jeff Thredgold.

A higher index number is associated with more favorable business conditions for Utah’s small businesses. The index uses 100.0 for calendar year 1997 as its base year.  The index includes revisions to various historical and new forecast components as they become available.

Stronger U.S. economic growth during 2010‘s final quarter is likely to be followed by more of the same, Thredgold said. Improving U.S. economic performance is a positive sign for Utah’s small business sector, he stated.

— Jasen Lee