Monday, January 23, 2012

Central Utah economic recovery lags

New job counts for the third quarter of 2011 show the five counties in the central Utah area (Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, and Wayne) lagging behind the state's economic recovery. The year-to-year change in nonfarm employment provides the best insight into a local area's economic well-being. Unfortunately, this indicator suggests that these central Utah economies have yet to fully embrace expansion and in some cases even recovery.
(Click to Enlarge)

Millard County
Millard County's most recent employment numbers are obscured by the completion of a large construction project. This development inflated the county's job numbers in 2010 only to deflate them in 2011. As of September 2011, Millard County showed a 3-percent year-to-year decrease in nonfarm jobs. Of course, one year earlier the county's total employment had skyrocketed 8 percent. Behind both the past gain and the current decline appears that large building project (wind farm). In fact, if one excludes the 200-job loss of temporary construction jobs, the county would have actually experienced an employment gain of almost 2 percent. The only notable job loss occurred in construction, while mining, manufacturing, retail trade, professional/business services, and private education/health/social services all generated moderate employment increases. Click here for Millard County's Current Economic Snapshot.

Piute County
Unlike most Utah counties, Piute County has not experienced any job growth since the recession began--although it did show one month of no change. Fortunately, the rate of decline has moderated. Its September 2011 year-over job loss measured 3 percent compared to 15 percent during the worst month of the recession. Fortunately, a large percentage of workers already commute outside the county for employment purposes mitigating some of the current malaise. The most recent 9-job decline occurred primarily at the hands of construction and trade/transportation/utilities. Some meager growth is apparent in service-related industries. However, with four additional jobs, the public sector proved the largest contributor of that new employment. You can find Piute County's Current Economic Snapshot by clicking here.

Sanpete County
Lagging far behind both Utah and the nation, Sanpete County just barely edged into job-growth territory in the third quarter of 2011. While the current gains appear modest, they certainly suggest the county is headed in the right direction. Between September 2010 and September 2011, Sanpete County's nonfarm jobs grew by 1 percent--a net increase of nearly 70 jobs. Many industries remain in the job-loser column--notably construction, transportation, information, financial activities, and the public sector. On the other side of the ledger, private education/health/social services and leisure/hospitality services generated very strong gains along with a little help from their friends manufacturing, wholesale trade,and mining. Now that Sanpete has crossed the border into expansion, it should continue to show an improving job market. Click here for the Current Economic Snapshot for Sanpete county.

Sevier County
As the recovery progressed in 2010, Sevier County job-growth rate was running neck-and-neck with the Utah economy--a great sign for a rural economy. However, by mid-2011 the job situation took a turn for the worse. The county's employment is still growing, but September-to-September jobs increased by a mere 0.2 percent. Interestingly, the two industries showing the largest job hits--construction and retail trade--were also suffering in the third quarter of 2010. Plus, no industry really experienced a deterioration in job totals. What happened? A year earlier, private education/health/social services was growing at a very rapid rate. Currently, that industry is still growing; but the rate of growth has dropped from 12 percent to less than 1 percent. Fortunately, other industries continue to add jobs at a healthy rate. Mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and transportation all generated significant numbers of new positions. For the Sevier County Current Economic Snapshot, click here.

Wayne County
Of all the counties in central Utah, Wayne County currently faces the largest economic challenge. The shutdown of the county's largest employer leaves the county with a September 2010 to September 2011 job loss of more than 11 percent--almost 130 jobs. Not surprisingly, the majority of job loss occurs in the industrial category which includes CRC Health Group's Aspen programs. Growth in the county's leisure/hospitality services offset some of the closure job losses. However, most industries showed little employment change over the past year. Click here for Wayne County's Current Economic Snapshot.