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Where the Jobs Are, Part 1

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Covey Ogden never saw it coming. In November 2009, the future was bright and the job search was new. Today, the 26-year-old BYU grad's wife is the wage and he is still looking.

"My wife brings home the bacon and I take care of the house," he told KSL Newsradio earlier this week.

Hours of his days the past nine months have been spent in front of his laptop screen.

Scams on Craigslist scared Ogden away from that service. The frustration mounted as several job applications turned into dozens. Ogden believes now he has applied for more than 100 jobs.

I've spent about two hours a day, 10 to 15 hours a week searching for jobs.

–Covey Ogden, unemployed for nine months

"I thought with my background - and I've had some good work experience - that I would have no trouble," Ogden said.

He finally received a job offer from a company in Springville Monday morning.

Ogden's plight doesn't surprise career experts, who have seen the story play out far too often.

"I think it is still a bit of a challenging market," said HR Service, Inc. CEO Ken Spencer.

That said, Spencer and others are pointing to glimmers of hope in various job sectors. Hiring, they say, has picked up some areas in the past six months.

"[With Christmas coming] the retail sector is going to be picking up. Some construction's picked up a little bit with the weather change and such," Spencer said.

Utah's unemployment rate improved one-tenth of a percent in June and now sits at 7.2%, well below the nation's rate of 9.5%.

Whatever positive signs Spencer has seen in the construction market constitute good news. State economists say that sector has hit rock bottom, and likely won't fully recover for more than a year.

Spencer also sees some momentum in manufacturing. Others see it in finance and internet technology.

"Ebay, Adobe, EA Sports," Salt Lake Chamber chief economist Natalie Gochnour runs down a list of tech companies that have announced moves and growth in Utah in recent months.

Despite tourism and hospitality seeing significant losses, Gochnour says those areas are finally picking up some steam.

"We had a fairly good ski season, our conventions are doing well, and so the employment in hotels and lodging, and in entertainment, restaurants, are doing quite well," Gochnour said.

Utah Department of Workforce Services chief economist Mark Knold says the health care sector has been the most steady through the recession. Second, he says, is actually the government sector. While he says the state has seen job losses, there has been hiring at the federal level because of the stimulus, and jobs at the local government level have not dropped.

The retail sector is going to be picking up. Some construction's picked up a little bit with the weather change and such.

–Ken Spencer, CEO, HR Service, Inc.

"Government is a helpful stabilizer within the economy in terms of it usually doesn't get big spikes in unemployment," Knold said.

Knold says overall he is still observing more job losses than he would like to see, but job gains are outnumbering the losses by a slim margin. He believes that pattern may continue until late in the year.

While talk of a double-dip recession has gained attention on national talks shows, Knold believes the chance is about 20 percent.

"You have to acknowledge that possibility," Knold said. "I don't think that's what is going to happen."

It is still possible to find night and weekend jobs that pay better than the minimum, according to Spencer.

"There's still a lot of technical support-type jobs, and I have seen quite a few of them that are still hiring. They can still get in the $12 to $14 - maybe even up to $16 range."

The challenge is the competition for jobs is fierce. The jobless rate in Utah stands at 7.2 percent. There are 97,000 people without jobs. Knold believes the true number could be in the neighborhood of 120,000.

It is forcing prospective workers to use strategy.

Coming up in Part Two of "Where the Jobs Are" on Thursday, August 12 KSL Newsradio's Andrew Adams examines just what skills and traits boost marketability, and he will look at companies who are hiring at good money.


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