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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah has added about 175,000 jobs since breaking out of the national recession in 2004, officials said Tuesday.
The cumulative total came as economists reported that Utah continued to add jobs in May at a consistent annual rate of 4.5 percent, up from the state's long-term average of 3.3 percent since 1950.
The figures make Utah one of the best-performing states in the nation, said Mark Knold, chief economist at the Department of Workforce Services.
Utah "popped out of a recession in late 2003" and began quickly adding jobs at a "skyrocketing" pace, he said.
It has added nearly 175,000 jobs since January 2004, a 16 percent increase compared to 6 percent for the country as a whole, Knold said.
The increases are led by mining, construction and manufacturing.
Unemployment was 2.5 percent in May, unchanged from April. That meant 33,100 people were unemployed, compared to 39,600 in May 2006.
The national unemployment rate in May was 4.5 percent. Utah's economy is off the charts by many measures, with Gov. Jon Huntsman's advisers saying they've never seen it so strong. "We are nearly halfway through 2007 and the Utah economy continues to perform at a stellar rate," Knold said in a statement Tuesday. "We are riding on the high end of our historic performance, and it seems safe to conclude that Utah will continue to excel throughout the remainder of this year."
Knold said the Rocky Mountain region has the nation's best economy. Growth in Nevada and Arizona is moving north to Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. "Their slowdown should help our labor supply, especially in the construction industry," he said. "We'll take what we can get for as long as we can get it."
Huntsman's chief economist, Robert Spendlove, has predicted job growth would remain at least twice the national average for the next three decades.
Spendlove based his prediction on a unique set of demographics in Utah, which has the highest fertility rate, largest household size, lowest median age and second-highest education attainment rate in the country.
Nearly all industrial sectors continue to grow in Utah, with information technology the only exception. Knold said the financial services sector also could slow as the housing market starts to wane.
The rate of housing permits is still high, but on a downward trend and will continue to moderate, dampening mortgage and real estate markets, he said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)