I know. I know. Most people would rather focus on unemployment rates when talking about the state of the labor market. It’s in our human nature to focus on the negative. However, job growth (or the lack thereof) is a better indicator of labor market health than unemployment rate estimates—particularly on a county level.
Since we now have preliminary third-quarter jobs data for Utah’s counties, we’d like to share the first glimpses of the overall data here and now. Here are some important points the data reveal.
Utah, in general, is experiencing faster job-growth than the U.S. In fact, survey data for November 2012 show Utah with the second-fastest job growth rate in the nation—second only to North Dakota where booming oil-field growth is dominating expansion.
• In Utah, too, oil-gas field employment expansion in the Uintah Basin is responsible for some of Utah’s fastest growing counties. Between September 2011 and September 2012, Duchesne County’s employment has expanded by a whopping 13 percent ranking it as Utah’s job-growth leader. Uintah County ranked as the third-fastest growing county with a 4.9 percent increase.
• On the other hand, second place on the Utah job-growth tote board goes to Washington County (5.8 percent year-to-year). Washington County appears to have shaken off the recessionary shackles to generate employment expansion at its long-term average.
• Other rapidly growing counties include Sanpete, Utah, and Beaver counties—all with growth rates greater than 4 percent.
• Nevertheless, roughly one-third of Utah’s counties showed declining job totals between September 2011 and September 2012. Several of these counties have not experienced notable expansion since the recession ended.
• Many of the job-loss counties are geographically located in the east-central portion of the state.
By selecting a county in the visualization list below, you can track nonfarm job expansion contraction through the most recent business cycle.