Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Brief Sanpete County Economic Update

As evidenced by recently-released third quarter 2012 jobs numbers, Sanpete County continued to experienced healthy economic expansion. Moreover, Sanpete County remains one of the few nonurban counties in Utah—without an oil/gas employment boom—to have achieved this lofty goal. Here’s a quick roundup of the county’s economic indicators.

• Monthly year-to-year jobs growth rates in the third quarter ranged from 4.8 percent to 5.8 percent. The last month in the quarter—September 2012—showed an employment increase of nearly 5 percent—a net gain of 340 jobs.

• In recent months, expansion seems to be plateauing. This is a good thing. While strong employment growth is an economic plus—overheated growth is not.

• Manufacturing proved the star of third quarter gains. Employment in this sector is up almost 120 jobs from last year. Private education/health/social services and the public sector (both state and local governments) added roughly 80 jobs each.

• However, not all major industries have joined in the employment joy. Still, for the most part, industry losses are relatively small. Financial activities took the biggest hit with the loss of 20 jobs year-to-year.

• Not surprisingly given the current spate of employment expansion, joblessness continues to trend downward. In November 2012, Sanpete County’s unemployment rate stood at 7.0 percent—down 0.8 points from November 2011. Of course, the county’s current rate measures noticeably higher than the state rate of 5.2 percent. However, part of the difference can be attributed to a decided seasonal pattern in certain industries.

• Construction permitting activity remains the one blemish on this otherwise robust economic situation. Home-permitting for the first 10 months of 2012 is down a whopping 65 percent and total construction values have dropped 40 percent (compared to the same time period last year). There does appear some moderation in the negativity in the final months in this time frame. Also, construction employment is actually higher than last year. Most public construction projects (roads, public buildings) are not permitted which most likely accounts for the seemingly discordant figures. Finally, economic expansion generally seems likely to perk up construction in the months ahead.

• Although third quarter gross taxable sales figures aren’t yet available, sales performance seem likely to follow the preceding five-quarter trend of vigorous expansion.