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Workforce services recaps 2001, releases 2002 projections

By Sun Advocate

Near the end of 2001, Utah’s economy experienced its worst slump since the 1980s.
Non-farm employers created only 10,000 new jobs statewide for a growth rate of 0.9 percent.
The expansion rate constitutes Utah’s slowest job growth since 1983 and registers at only a fraction of the state’s long-term average of 3.5 percent.
Correspondingly, the 4.4 percent unemployment rate posted by the state in 2001 represents a nine-year high, indicates the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
On average, 50,000 Utahns were out of work on a monthly basis during last year.
The 2002 Olympic Winter Games will temporarily lift northern Utah’s economy. Nevertheless, the state’s performance for the year will appear similar to 2001.
Job growth will remain near 1 percent during 2002, creating approximately 12,000 employment opportunities across Utah, predicts the department of workforce services.
The statewide jobless rate may reach 5 percent, with 58,000 unemployed Utahns.
However, signs of a recovery should start to surface after mid-year.
Several major construction projects were completed in 2001 and 2002 looks to be a leaner year for the sector, points out the department of workforce services.
The dearth of new employment opportunities for construction workers could extend Utah’s economic slowdown well into 2002.
The record-breaking 11-year expansion in Utah’s construction industry ended in 1999. The year 2001’s net loss of about 2,000 jobs is the second year of the long-anticipated downturn in the industry as several major projects have been completed.
With fewer construction projects anticipated for 2002, workforce services forecasts a loss of an additional 5,500 jobs in the industry.
The 2001 rate of job growth in Utah’s major industrial divisions ranged from minimum 3 percent in manufacturing and construction to 5 percent in finance, insurance and real estate.
In 2002 construction job losses will deepen, but most other divisions should see some minor improvements.
In 2001, Utah’s average annual non-agricultural pay registered at $29,700. The figure is up 3.1 percent from the 2000 average, an increase of 4.8 percent. This is the seventh year in a row that average wage increases in Utah have outpaced inflation, as measured by the consumer price index.
Since the early 1980s, growth in wages for Utahns covered under unemployment insurance laws have lagged far behind the United States, explains the department of workforce services.
Utah annual pay as a percentage of U.S. wage has declined from a high of 96.3 percent in 1981 to a low of 82.8 percent in 2000. Nothing in the foreseeable future will alter the trend.
The loss of high paying goods-producing jobs in the early and mid-1980s contributed to the decline in wages. However, Utah demographics have played a role in the situation.
Utah has a large percentage of young people in the labor market. Young people are usually paid less than older workers. In addition, Utah has a higher percentage of individuals working part-time than the U.S. in general, which also tends to pull the average wage down.
Shortages of workers from 1996 through 2000 are thought to be a factor in the relatively rapid wage increases during the four-year period. Average annual pay in 2002 will likely see slower growth, according to workforce services.
Utah’s teenagers and young adults are much more likely to work than U.S. peers. Utah’s population ages 55 years and older accounts for a relatively small share of the state’s adult population. Older Utahns are also more likely to work than U.S. peers. In addition, Utah’s large families and lower than average wages may influence households to have more than one wage earner and jobs have been readily available for several years.
An average of 72 percent of Utah’s civilian population older than age 15 participated in the labor force in 2000. The number is significantly higher than the national average of 67 percent. Both Utah women and men take part in the labor market at higher raters than national counterparts.
Roughly 97.5 percent of Utah workers are employed in non-agriculturally industries, indicates workforce services. Of the individuals in question, 7 percent are self-employed or private household or unpaid family members.
Approximately 90 percent of all employed Utahns are non-agricultural wage and salaried workers, concludes DWS.

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