Friday, April 6, 2012

The Nonfarm Job Growth-Divide in Central Utah

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Several counties in central Utah may wonder "Where's the recovery?" Three of five counties in the area lost employment in the final month of 2011. In fact, Wayne and Piute counties--both with double-digit job declines--suffered the worst employment situations in Utah at year-end. In addition, Millard County joined this job-losing club with more moderate declines.

On the other side of the accounting column, the two largest central Utah counties in terms of population--Sevier and Sanpete--showed expansion as 2011. Sanpete County's job gains even moved into the moderate range--exceeding the statewide job growth rate.

For more details about job growth in central Utah and an interactive visualization, be sure to "read more."

Millard County employment totals dropped more than 5 percent between December 2010 and December 2011. This decline is primarily rooted in the completion of a construction project which ballooned employment in late 2010 rather than any structural, long-term change. Indeed, the vast majority of lost jobs can be traced to construction. The public sector (mostly local government) showed additional and significant employment losses. Plus a plethora of industries each lost a fairly small number of positions. Unfortuantely, there wasn't a whole lot of job creation going on in other industries. Transportation and professional/business services proved the only industries to add more than 10 jobs each. The strongest growth (about 13 percent) occurred in covered agriculture--jobs that are typically counted in the nonfarm job totals.

Piute County continued to shed nonagricultural employment at an alarming rate. Its December year-to-year change in nonfarm jobs measured a startling 17 percent. This is just the continuation of a pattern of job loss that has dragged on for more than four years. While most counties have at least experienced diminished job losses, Piute County has not. How is it that Piute County's unemployment rate registers lower than the state and national averages? Fortunately, a high percentage of Piute County workers have found employment outside the county's borders. Construction, private education/health/social services and government have taken the most recent employment hits.

Sanpete County's slow-and-steady employment pace seems to finally be paying off. Between December 2010 and December 2011, Sanpete County's nonfarm employment increased by 3.4 percent--higher than the growth rates for either Utah or the U.S. The county came to the job-growth party somewhat late, but seems to be firmly on the road to economic health. This is a fairly broad-based expansion with leisure/hospitality services and private education/health and social services providing the largest job contributions. However, mining, manufacturing, retail trade, professional/business services, other services and government all added at least 15 new positions each to the job coffers. In contrast, the wholesale trade, information, and financial activities industries did show some job declines.

Sevier County entered recovery phase of the business cycle early showing job growth in mid-2010. However, layoffs set back the counties gains in mid 2011. The final quarter of 2011 provided a somewhat brighter picture. Yet, while job growth has returned, rates are currently less than desirable. Year-to-year job growth in December measured just 1.2 percent. Many industries did add jobs. However, employment losses in construction, information, financial activities and leisure/hospitality services stunted overall expansion. On the plus side, transportation, private education/health/social services more than offset the losses. In addition, mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, and professional business services also contributed new employment.

The loss of Wayne County's largest employer (Aspen Education Group) continues to traumatize its labor market. In December 2011, employment had dropped more than 20 percent in comparison with December 2010. That represents a loss of more than 180 jobs in this sparsely-populated county. Not surprisingly, most of the job losses appeared in private education/health/social service industry. But, other industries also showed contracting payrolls--in particular construction and leisure/hospitality services. Retail trade registered as the only job-creating industry of note.

You show individual county employment histories by selecting the appropriate box in the chart below.