Utah's economy 'holding steady'

Utah's economy 'holding steady'

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's economy appears to be "holding steady" with a higher unemployment rate in August 2010 than the same month last year. But the state is also adding new jobs.

Utah's unemployment rate for August was 7.4 percent, which is 1.6 percentage points higher than the unemployment rate seen in August 2009, according to statistics released by the Department of Workforce Services. The unemployment rate in July 2010 was 7.2 percent.

During the last 12 months, about 18,900 jobs have been added to the state's economy.

The numbers suggest "the Utah economy is operating in a mild state of recovery," according to Mark Knold, economist for the Department of Workforce Services.

"It is probably more reasonable to view the economy as holding steady than rebounding (hovering between job losses or gains)," Knold said. "The entire national economy seems to have fallen into a holding pattern during the summer months, and by extension that same pause is probably permeating Utah also."

The national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.

"The economy is just kind of stuck," said Knold. "It's not moving backwards, but it's not having a lot of luck in moving forward."

Knold said the worst of the recession is over, but the immediate future doesn't look great.

"We've hit our bottom, but we're not getting a sharp turnaround. We're going to get this delayed, stagnant kind of action and it looks like it's going to be kind of ho-hum through the end of the year," he said. "We starting to look at the early part of 2011 as coming back to life a little bit. That is kind of predicated on the springtime building season, but that's kind of questionable."

"We went through two years of job contractions and now we have a period of job nothingness — and sometimes that can be as unwanted as the job losses because you don't get a chance to get people back on their feet who were dislocated," Knold said.

The department's monthly employer survey indicates that construction and manufacturing have shown year-over-year job losses.

Education and healthcare are the strongest areas in Utah.

Professional and business services areas have expanded and produced new jobs, however much of this could be due to growth in the temporary help category.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com

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