Utah unemployment rate drops to 6.3 percent

Utah unemployment rate drops to 6.3 percent

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's unemployment rate declined from 6.5 percent in October to 6.3 percent in November, signaling what a state economist says may mark a turning point in the state's economic recovery.

"We were digging a hole in the economy and I think we're at a point now where we stop digging. The hole has been dug, now lets see if we can start putting some dirt back in that hole, so to speak, and fill it back up to where we were," said Mark Knold, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

While the job-loss rate is slowing, the Utah Department of Workforce Services reported Thursday that more than 86,000 residents were considered unemployed last month, compared with fewer than 53,000 during the same period last year.

Knold said it could take as many as five years for Utah to get back all of the jobs it had during its economic peak in 2006, when the state added 52,000 jobs.

"We're going to end up with, probably when it's all said and done, the loss of between 60,000 to 70,000 jobs from the high point prior to this downturn," he said. "So lets say we had a super year next year, you still don't have all those jobs back and at the very best you get them back in two years -- but I just don't see that happening."

The department says while job losses are still the major theme of Utah's employment picture, there is a noticeable retreat in the volume of loss.

Knold said job losses moderated in nearly every sector of the economy in November, except hospitality and tourism. Knold said that may be a one-month anomaly due in part to a slow start to the ski season compared with last year, when early winter storms hit the state.

The few sectors of the economy to create jobs in the past month were education, government and health care.

The U.S. unemployment rate in November fell two-tenths, to 10 percent.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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