Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gravel pit proposal rocks Teasdale

Utah trust lands officials plan to authorize a gravel pit just east of the Wayne County hamlet Teasdale, but many nearby residents contend such a use is a poor fit in an area famed for its bucolic and red-rock vistas, potentially undermining its ability to attract visitors and support agriculture.

The proposal has sparked a lively debate on social media, and critics and supporters of the project are expected to converge at a planning commission hearing Wednesday night in Loa, where commissioners are weighing a zoning change that would allow industrial uses in the scenic area largely devoted to livestock and alfalfa operations.

Brown Brothers Construction Co., which has operated a gravel pit on state land near Loa for decades, recently approached SITLA about leasing an L-shaped 120-acre parcel not far from the river, south of State Route 24. Brown wants to work 30 acres off the Teasdale Bench Road. SITLA would charge annual rent of $1,200 and a royalty of 70 cents per cubic yard of material removed. Salt Lake Tribune

Independent experts to examine Utah coal counties’ plan to invest in California export terminal

State officials are looking for independent consultants to evaluate Utah's proposed investment in a California export terminal — a plan that has sparked controversy in both states from critics who question the environmental impact of shipping coal and future demand for it.

The proposed loan is a new approach for the Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB), which decides how to spend millions the state reaps every year from federal mineral royalties and leases. SB246 bypasses restrictions on CIB funding, allowing the board to create a new revolving loan program designed to help move rural Utah's natural resources to distant markets.

First up is the $53 million loan sought by four coal-producing counties that want to invest in a proposed deep-water terminal under development in Oakland. Other proposals that could seek access to the new fund are a transmission line, oil pipeline and rail line serving the Uinta Basin's oil patch and a 48-mile rail spur connecting Salina to the coal load-out on the Union Pacific line at Levan. Salt Lake Tribune

Dangerous Sanpete County bridge over Sevier River being replaced

Farmers Highway and a major route to Lund Farms have been partially closed for the construction of the new $1.16-million, 100-foot Sevier River Bridge Project. The state determined the previous bridge was dangerous for commuters to cross, especially those with heavy loads because some structures underneath the bridge had broken away over time. Dry Creek Structures of Lehi won the bid and broke ground on Feb. 15. Sanpete Messenger

Railroad resort brings Sevier railroad past to life

The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad is being resurrected in an unusual way in the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area. Partners David Grow and George Jones of Environetics have built a caboose and railroad village at Big Rock Candy Mountain, north of Marysvale in Piute County.

After several years of planning, last year the pair opened the Track 89 Caboose Village Resort at Big Rock Candy Mountain with three railroad cars. This year, they have seven and next year they hope to have 10. The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area recently awarded the project a $25,000 grant for landscaping and parking. In February they received a 50-year lease for the old Denver and Rio Grande Depot from the city of Mt. Pleasant to build a similar resort there. Sanpete Pyramid

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Your area’s labor market information is “OnTheMap”

The Census Bureau’s online mapping tool provides a wealth of location-specific labor market information 

 By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist 

“If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.” Ashleigh Brilliant 

This isn’t your same old blog post about data. Instead of analyzing and sharing data, this post covers how to access an extremely useful “big data” labor market information tool. What is this tool? The U.S. Census Bureau’s OnTheMap web-based mapping and reporting application. http://onthemap.ces.census.gov/

What’s so great about OnTheMap? Typically, we report labor market information at the state and county level. Local-level data is harder to come by. Along with the ability to provide labor market profiles of small and large nonstandard areas, OnTheMap graphically demonstrates where people work and where workers live. Users can define their own geographies and obtain data and maps at the census-block level of detail. This flexibility can quickly provide information for emergency and transportation planning, site location and economic development.

Do you want to understand commuting patterns for a particular area? OnTheMap can generate maps of outflow and inflow. Do you want to know the basic characteristics of workers in your town? OnTheMap has that information. Do you want to identify the employment characteristics along a specific stretch of highway? OnTheMap can deliver that data. Do you want to discern how many workers live within a 50-mile radius of a particular site? OnTheMap delivers.

Where does this data come from? OnTheMap combines federal and state administrative data on workers and employees with Census Bureau census and survey data. Don’t worry. Using state-of-the-art methods, the Census Bureau is committed to protecting the confidentiality of business and personal information.

Where People Work 

Let’s run through a few examples of how OnTheMap outputs can help you understand your local economy. Suppose the Ephraim City Council wants to know where the residents of their town work. OnTheMap indicates roughly 40 percent of the city’s working residents are employed in Ephraim itself (zip code 84627). Not surprisingly, other high concentrations of Ephraim workers are in nearby towns. Interestingly, 28 percent of Ephraim workers commute to the Wasatch Front (Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties) for employment.

Next, the Mayor wants to know how many workers travel into Ephraim for employment. OnTheMap suggests that roughly equal numbers are entering and exiting Ephraim for employment purposes. In-commuters are most likely to drive from Manti.

 Labor Market Characteristics 

Now, these local government officials have decided they would like to know the characteristics of those folks that work or live in Ephraim. OnTheMap can provide age-group, earnings, industry, race/ethnicity, gender and educational attainment information. For example, OnTheMap shows the following characteristics for working residents of Ephraim:

• 27 percent are 29 years or younger
• 29 percent make more than $3,333 a month
• 23 percent work in education, healthcare or social services
• 8 percent are Latino
• 18 percent have at least a Bachelor’s degree
• 46 percent are female

Getting Specific 

A company thinking of locating to Ephraim is interested in the number (and characteristics) of workers within a standard commuting distance of a particular worksite. Economic development professionals can specify a particular radius and obtain a report. Other shapes (donut and plume) are also available. In addition, users can draw their own polygons in OnTheMap. To determine how many workers may be inconvenienced by a road construction project, just draw a line along the length of the project and “buffer” the selection.

You should begin to see what a valuable informational tool OnTheMap can be for planning and economic development purposes. OnTheMap is available here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New County Population Estimates

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released 2015 population estimates by county. See our main blog page for individual county data.

Millard County Economic Update

Although Millard County briefly flirted with job loss at midyear, its employment has expanded moderately for most of 2015. In fact, fourth quarter turned in the strongest growth numbers of the year. Relatively steady employment expansion coupled with a persistently low jobless rate suggests the labor market is creating enough positions for new entrants. The trend in first-time claims for unemployment insurance also points to a balanced labor market free of cyclical distress. A strong showing in construction also points to a stable, yet growing Millard Count economy. The only somewhat sour note in this basically sweet story was a decline in gross taxable sales.

• Between December 2014 and December 2015, Millard County added 100 new jobs for an expansion rate of 2.5 percent.

• Although not particularly exciting, in this case, slow and steady employment growth may just win the race with broad-based expansion.

• No major industry lost employment. However, wholesale trade, professional/business services and leisure/hospitality services contributed the highest number of new jobs.

• Millard County’s unemployment rate has been hanging out just above the 3-percent mark for more than a year.

• In March 2016, the county’s jobless rate measured 3.3 percent, below the statewide average of 3.5 percent. • New unemployment insurance claims are being filed at a level common to the seasonal pattern of the last three years, with no signs of major layoffs.

• The seasonal construction industry contributed the largest number of new claims so far in 2016.

• Millard County’s average monthly nonfarm wage continues to edge upward. Between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015, the average wage increased by a healthy 4 percent.

• Construction permitting ended 2015 on a high note with a 40-percent annual increase in permitting values. • Permitting for industrial buildings drove up new nonresidential values.

• Home permits reached the highest level since before the recession.

• While gross taxable sales showed a substantial 19-percent loss between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015, most of the decline can be traced to prior-period adjustments.

 • Without the prior-period adjustments, sales showed only slight slippage.

• Motor vehicle sales proved particularly strong in contrast the notable year-to-year decline in business investment expenditures.

Piute County Economic Update

Since the end of the national recession, growth in nonfarm jobs has been a rare occurrence in Piute County. Unfortunately, fourth quarter 2015 kept to the job-loss side of the fence. While many Piute County residents work outside the county, unemployment remains stubbornly high. On the other hand, first-time claims for unemployment insurance are following a noncyclical, seasonal pattern. Plus, gross taxable sales improved nicely in the fourth quarter of 2015. Despite some positives, Piute County’s economy continues to struggle.

• Between December 2014 and December 2015, Piute County’s nonfarm job totals dropped 9.2 percent reflecting 22 lost jobs.

• Job losses touched almost every major industry.

• Leisure/hospitality services and government were responsible for most of the employment contraction.

• Joblessness has decreased somewhat during the past year.

• The county’s unemployment rate measured 5.9 percent in March 2016, down almost a full percentage point from March 2015.

• Piute County unemployment rate can decline in the midst of job losses because many workers travel outside the county for employment.

• New unemployment insurance claims remain low with most claims so far this year originating in construction.

• The county’s average monthly nonfarm wage continued to edge upward despite employment shrinkage. In fact, between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015, the average wage increased by 11 percent.

• In fourth quarter 2015, gross taxable sales grew (year-over-year) by 9.8 percent. Unfortunately, most of the gain resulted from prior period adjustments.

• Gasoline stations showed some of the strongest gains.

Sanpete County Economic Update

Sanpete County finished 2015 with continued strong employment expansion. Job growth remains moderate and fairly broad-based while unemployment continues to hover in the full-employment range. New claims for unemployment insurance are following a seasonal, noncyclical pattern. Construction also showed improvement in 2015. On the other hand, gross taxable sales did experience a slight decline, but at the root of the decrease lay volatile business-investment expenditures rather than consumer spending. Overall, the economy appears hale and hearty.

• Between December 2014 and December 2015, Sanpete County’s nonfarm jobs grew by 3.5 percent, adding almost 270 new positions.

• While most industries did display job increases, leisure and hospitality services sustained a notable employment hit.

• Manufacturing created the largest number of industry-level jobs with construction, retail trade and professional/business services following close behind.

• At 4.0 percent in March 2016, Sanpete County’s jobless rate remained low and certainly in the full-employment range.

• Jobless rates are currently running at the lowest levels since the end of the recession.

• During the first few months of 2016, new unemployment insurance claims followed the seasonal pattern of the past several years with no sign of cyclical layoffs.

• Thanks to its project-to-project nature, construction accounted for a large share of current 2016 claims activity.

• As in most Utah counties, Sanpete County’s average monthly nonfarm wage continues to slowly improve. The year-to-year fourth quarter increase proved particularly strong at 5 percent.

• Construction permitting data suggest Sanpete County’s building environment improved dramatically during 2015.

• The number of new home permits rose in 2015 compared to 2014, but remains low from an historical perspective.

• Gross taxable sales did slipped by 2.3 percent between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015.

• The primary reason for the dip was a year-to-year decrease in business investment expenditures in the manufacturing industry.

• On the consumer side, retail sales were up with strong gains at building materials/garden stores and general merchandise stores.