Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY — The number of Utahns with gainful employment continues to rise — reaching the highest level in more than five years.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported Friday that Utah’s nonfarm payroll employment for May 2014 grew by an estimated 2.9 percent, adding 37,500 jobs to the economy compared to May of 2013. The state’s current employment level registered at 1,325,600.

For the month, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate registered 3.6 percent, down 0.2 percent from April. The department reported that approximately 52,000 Utahns were unemployed and actively seeking work. Nationwide, the jobless rate remained unchanged from April at 6.3 percent.

Utah’s job market continues to expand, said Carrie Mayne, chief economist with the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The latest numbers from the employment census show stronger job growth than past monthly survey estimates, she said.

Current labor force estimates — which count workers and not jobs — show two months of small contractions after steady expansion since August 2011, she added. Economic activity in the summer months will show whether this was a new trend or short-term volatility.

Labor force participation for the month of May was 69.2 percent, Mayne noted. That figure represents the percentage of working age adults who are working or actively seeking employment. She explained that the average observed labor force participation rate over a 10-year period was just over 72 percent, putting the current level at a “steady and strong … across the board” growth path.

The department reported growth in all 10 private sector industry groups measured in the survey. Each segment posted net job increases in May compared to last year, with the largest overall employment increases in trade, transportation and utilities — adding 9,800 jobs, while construction added 5,400 jobs and government added 5,200 new positions.

“We had all industries showing expansion,” Mayne said. “Everything is healthy and things are moving along.”

She said the growth trend is expected to continue throughout the summer. The fastest employment growth occurred in the construction sector, which grew by 7.3 percent, while the information industry increased by 6.8 percent, with trade, transportation and utilities growing at 4.0 percent for the month.

"While we have the third lowest unemployment rate and the fourth highest job growth rate of any state, it’s even more important that our growth is distributed across a broad spectrum of industries," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

Utah's job growth remained near its historical average at an estimated 2.9 percent. The economic numbers were released one week after the state was honored with the most top 10 rankings in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce report Enterprising States, according to the department.

“The goal is to have balanced, strong and consistent economic growth and that's exactly what we have in Utah,” said Juliette Tennert, chief economist for the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

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