Although Millard County seems to have shaken off most of the construction losses related to the wrap-up of a 2011 construction project, many of its remaining industries continue suffer a job drain according to recently released nonfarm job figures. In addition, the only current economic indicator moving in the “right” direction is the unemployment rate. Here’s a brief recap of the figures:
• Not all months in the third quarter of 2012 lost employment. August showed a brief 0.6 percent gain. However, both July and September figures landed in the job-loss category. Between September 2011 and September 2012, Millard County employment contracted by almost 50 jobs—a 1.2 percent decline.
• Unfortunately, most major industry categories joined in this employment decrease. Construction, manufacturing, retail trade, utilities, private education/health/social services, leisure/hospitality services, and the public sector (local government) each lost more than ten positions.
• However, not all industries shared in the employment gloom. In particular, professional/business services employment surged by more than 60 positions. Wholesale trade and transportation also added notable numbers of new jobs. What doesn’t show up in the nonfarm job total are the 20 net new covered agricultural positions created over the past year.
• Despite the current employment losses, unemployment in Millard County continues to edge down. As of November 2012, the county’s jobless rate registered a mere 4.3 percent—far below the state average of 5.2 percent. How can unemployment continue to decline in the midst of job loss? The two main reasons are that people have left the area or left the labor market altogether. In addition, the release of jobs data does lag the release of unemployment rates. So, perhaps employment has picked up and we just don’t have the figures available.
• Initial claims for unemployment insurance seem to have settled at a comparatively low level as the 2012 came to a close.
• There is certainly no cause for pleasure in construction permitting. After a spurt of home-building in 2011, permits for the first 10 months of 2012 are down by half. Overall, permit values for January-October have declined by 64 percent compared to the same time period last year.
• Third quarter gross taxable sales figures are not yet available. As of second quarter 2012, Millard County had agonized through five straight quarters of sales decline. However, the slight second-quarter 2012 decline is hopefully the precursor of a better third quarter. Car sales did decrease dramatically (30 percent) in third quarter following on the heels of three positive quarters.