Utah unemployment rate rises slightly

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's unemployment rate rose slightly in October, but a state economist says that increase is likely a sign more people are seeking work because of a slowly rebounding economy.

Utah's unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percent to 7.6 percent from September to October, or by about 4,000 people, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released Thursday.

The trend is we've had a high point. We fell all the way to the low point. Now we're starting a healing process.

–- Mark Knold

Last October the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services also said the state has gained about 16,500 jobs over the past year, leaving total employment at more than 1.2 million. In the past month, job growth rose by 1.4 percent.

"To me, the job growth number is the one that is more telling of the economy," said Mark Knold, the department's chief economist.

Knold said the unemployment is rate is probably rising because people who haven't been seeking work are beginning to do so, adding to the unemployment count.

"Until they find a job they're unemployed. So we're going to make the speculation that this 4,000 gain in unemployed is not a further deterioration in the economy, but rather discouraged workers thinking the economy is starting to look up," he said.

The department report says about 102,000 Utahns were considered unemployed in October.

There is a wait for computers at Utah's Division of Workforce Services, where a constant stream of people is looking for jobs. Georgia Ford lost her restaurant equipment sales job a year and a half ago.

"I keep coming here. I think I'm going to fine something, but I never get a call," she said. "I call them and they say they have 300 applications, so it's rough."

But there is a hint of optimism among those hunting for a steady job, like Jesse Owens. "I try to just keep an open mind and do what I can to get in that position so I can be one of those positive statistics of bringing employment back down," he said.

Utah's unemployment rate for October remained well below the national figure of 9.6 percent.

The state report said manufacturing and government are the only two sectors of the economy with employment losses in the past year. Meanwhile, the trade and transportation sector gained 700 jobs in the past year.

The report says financial activities have stabilized since the financial meltdown that triggered the recession, adding about 1,200 jobs to the state's economy in the past year. The professional and business services sector also added about 6,800 jobs, the most of any sector.

The report also notes that the leisure and hospitality sector has added 1,800 jobs in the past year, suggesting that nonessential spending is rising.

Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty said on Wednesday that leisure travel is anticipated to increase this winter and that it generally precedes a broader economic recovery.

The ski industry is the most lucrative sector of the state's tourism economy.


Story compiled with contributions from The Associated Press , Richard Piatt and Kenn Johnson.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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