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Utah struggles to recover from recession, four-year drought impacts



By Sun Advocate

In addition to struggling to recover from the statewide economic recession, Utah faces the impacts associated with four years of drought conditions. The state’s jobless reached 5.6 percent in December, with approximately 63,600 Utahns unemployed last month. Compounding the state’s woes, the fourth straight year of receiving below normal precipitation has negatively impacted sheep and cattle ranchers operating at locations throughout Utah. Many Utah producers have been forced to sell animals because the farmers and ranchers can no longer afford to feed the livestock.

Utah continues to struggle to recover from a statewide economic recession and the impacts associated with four years of drought conditions.
The state’s jobless reached 5.6 percent in December and approximately 63,600 Utahns unemployed last month.
In addition, the fourth straight year of below normal precipitation has hurt sheep and cattle ranchers throughout Utah.
Many Utah producers have been forced to sell animals because the farmers and ranchers can no longer can afford to feed the livestock.
Utah farmers and ranchers battling to survive one of the worst droughts the state has experience are inundating government agencies with requests for financial assistance.
Utah’s second primary indicator of labor market conditions, the year-over change in the number of non-farm wage and salaried jobs, remained negative and stagnant.
The number of employment opportunities available statewide dropped by 1.2 percent or 12,500 positions compared to data reported in December 2001, indicated the latest Trendlines report compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Ending Jan. 4, the four-week average of initial unemployment insurance claims filed at locations across Utah totalled 2,462.
The December 2002 figure represents a decrease of 5 percent compared to last year’s 2,577.
The number of all initial claims filed for unemployment benefits during the week ending Jan. 4 registered at 2,469 statewide.
Weeks claimed numbered 22,900, decreasing 13 percent from the 26,265 filings across Utah in 2001.
Utah builders took out permits for the construction of 11,439 single-family homes valued at nearly $1.7 billion in 2002. The related figure is down 1.3 percent from the 11,590 permits valued at about $1.6 billion in 2001, according to statistics gathered by the Construction Monitor.
Utah women are the healthiest in the country. But females in Utah’s labor force earn considerably less than robust incomes, pointed out a national evaluation on the status of women in the labor force. Studies based on census and other data show that Utah women are least likely to die of lung cancer, but only earn an average of $25,000 annually.
While the majority of local governments in the U.S. are predicting 12 additional months of revenue shortfalls, Utah is among the 10 states expecting stable or improving economic conditions in 2003, noted the U.S. Conference of State Legislatures.
At the national level, the unemployment rate remained steady at 6 percent in December.
The 101,000 job cuts last month were widespread and followed a revised loss of 88,000 in November, indicated the U.S. Labor Department.
The report capped a gloomy year for job seekers who watched the U.S. unemployment rate surge from 5.6 percent in January to close 2002 at 6 percent, matching an eight year high.
The number Americans unemployed 15 weeks or more climbed to 3.2 million last month.
The number of Americans seeking state jobless aid fell by 19,000, added the U.S. Labor Department.
First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell to 389,000 nationwide for the week ending Jan. 4.
Consumer borrowing in November posted the largest decline in 11 years, reported the U.S. Federal Reserve reported.
Borrowing through credit cards and loans decreased at an annual rate of 1.5 percent or $2.2 billion, the first drop since January 1998 and the biggest since October 1991, according to data compiled by federal agencies.
U.S. chain store sales rose modestly in December and the 2002 Christmas shopping season disappointed retailers nationwide.
Sales at major U.S. chain stores rose 0.5 percent in the five weeks ending Jan. 4 compared with the same period last month, confirmed the most recent Instinet Research Redbook report.
Orders for goods manufactured by American companies fell in November, confirmed the U.S. Commerce Department.
Data collected nationwide showed weak demand for costly, long-lasting items.
Factory orders declined 0.8 percent to $319.3 billion after posting a 1.4 percent increase in October.
Applications for U.S. mortgages jumped 24 percent for the week when consumers rushed to lock in interest rates, explained the national trade group.
The surge in mortgage applications was the largest increase in percentage terms since last June, indicated the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.
Americans’ health care spending soared 8.7 percent during 2001.
Escalating prices for everything from prescription medications to hospital stays contributed to the largest increase reported in a decade.
The nation’s health care budget jumped to $1.4 trillion, compared to $1.3 trillion in 2000.
The data indicate that health care spending averaged approximately $5,035 per person, pointed out the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

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