Monday, April 28, 2014

Sanpete County Economic Update

Sanpete County started the post-recession era with such promise. However, its strong employment performance deteriorated in 2012 and the county has spent the last half-year losing jobs on a year-to-year basis. Obviously, to return to full economic health, the county must begin the job creation process once again.

Between December 2012 and December 2013, Sanpete County lost more than 100 jobs and showed a contraction rate of 1.5 percent. December did show a lower rate of loss than other months in the quarter. This holds out the faint hope that the job-loss trend may be reversing itself. On the other hand, the current widespread employment declines could be difficult to offset. Construction, manufacturing, retail trade, financial activities, leisure/hospitality services and the public sector all lost notable numbers of new positions. On the opposite side of the ledger, only professional/business services and healthcare/social services displayed any significant employment expansion.

As elsewhere in Utah, jobless rates in Sanpete County have been trending downward notwithstanding the county’s poor job performance. Recently-released U.S. Census Bureau population estimates show the county’s population expanding over the past several years. However, that overall gain obscures significant net out-migration. This suggests that part of the decline in the county’s unemployment rate stems from the loss of working-age adults.

 In March 2014, Sanpete County’s jobless rate measured 5.2 percent, nestled between the state (4.1 percent) and national (6.7 percent) averages. Initial claims for unemployment insurance are running at their lowest level since the end of the recession which contributes to the declining unemployment rate. Over the past year, the jobless rate has decreased by almost a full percentage point.

Gross taxable sales mirrored the malaise in employment. Sanpete County’s sales dipped by a minuscule 0.1 percent in fourth quarter 2013.