Emery County's unemployment rate for December jumped to 9.8 percent from November's 8.9 percent, a steadily climbing unemployment pattern that is prevalent throughout the state. Carbon County listed a December unemployment rate of 6.8 percent, up from November's 5.8 percent.
As a whole Utah's unemployment rate for December jumped to 5.2 percent from November's 4.4 percent and is at its highest level since April 1992. Ken Jensen, senior economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services said, "Layoffs continue to push up the unemployment rate. One reflection of this is the 80 percent jump in the number of weeks of unemployment insurance claimed through DWS for mid-December compared to the same period in 2000." In December 2001, nearly 60,000 Utahns were unemployed, a 65-percent leap from the 36,200 of a year earlier, when the rate was 3.2 percent.
In Emery County, layoffs from construction and seasonal work was the driving factor behind the county's rise in unemployment, according to Delena Fish, manager of the Castle Dale office of DWS. She said the DWS office attempts to help layed off workers locate work either in the area or elsewhere.
Utah's other primary indicator of current labor market conditions, the year-over rate of increase in the number of nonfarm wage and salaried jobs, has fallen sharply since the first of the year. The current 0.4 percent growth is a tiny fraction of January 2001's 2.4 percent. Utah is seeing its slowest employment expansion since 1987. Between December 2000 and December 2001, Utah's 66,000 employers created only 3,900 net new nonfarm jobs. To put this slow growth into context, Utah's historical average growth rate of 3.5 percent would have produced 38,000 new jobs.
For the United States, the unemployment rate edged up from 5.6 percent in November to 5.8 percent in December, its highest level since October 1994. Correspondingly, there are fewer nonfarm jobs this December than there were in December 2000, a loss of 0.8 percent. This is the third month in a row to show a year-over loss in jobs; the last time the U.S. lost jobs year-over was in 1992. Interestingly, only 19 months ago, U.S. job growth was 2.7 percent.
"Despite today's gloomy news, some positive signs in certain sectors of the national economy suggest that recovery is not far off," said Bob Gross, executive director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services. "Locally, we are waiting to learn the full impact of holiday shopping and sales on revenues. We do anticipate improvement in the retail and service sectors during the next several weeks as Utah hosts the world for the Olympic Winter Games."