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Mining industry production level climbs while coal prices, employment decrease

By Sun Advocate

While coal production numbers for 2001 were impressive, members of the mining industry fear that dropping price drops and employment losses signal troubled times for southeastern Utah.
Employment in the coal industry continues to decline, but the increased use of longwall mining machinery has sharply elevated productivity, indicates the latest report compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The price of coal averaged $17.76 per ton, down from the going rate of $29.42 two decades ago.
Dropping employment opportunities are a concern not only in Carbon and Emery counties, but at locations throughout the state.
Ending Feb. 15, the four-week average number of initial unemployment insurance claims filed by displaced Utah workers registered at 2,192, virtually unchanged from 2,194 last year, explained the state agency.
The number of all unemployment filings totaled 2,247 and weeks claimed numbered 24,457, decreasing 8.2 percent compared to last year.
Utah reaped more than $260 million in federally funded projects in the latest United States government spending bill.
Projects ranged from installing a new water pipeline in drought-ravaged Monticello to expanding research in Logan on poisonous plants to safeguard cattle.
The Utah Department of Transportation recently informed state lawmakers the agency is considering dropping ferry service across Lake Powell. Whether the U.S. National Park Service or a concessionaire would purchase and operate the ferries remains to be determined.
The water level at Lake Powell is dropping to the lowest mark in 30 years, making the existing ferry piers unusable.
With several additional years of drought expected, the state transportation department does not want to absorb the cost of building new piers.
UDOT subsidizes the ferry service at Lake Powell for $200,000 a year.
On the national scene, the consumer price index for all urban consumers increased 0.4 percent in reported the U.S. Department of Labor’s statistics bureau.
Registering at 181.7 (1982-84=100), the January consumer price index was 2.6 percent higher than in 2002
The U.S. Labor Department indicated that inflation at the wholesale level shot up by 1.6 percent in January, representing the largest increase in 13 years.
A sharp 4.8 percent rise in energy costs across the nation, including in Utah, fueled the skyrocketing inflation rate.
The number of newly laid off American workers filing unemployment claims jumped to a seven-week 402,000 high last week, pointed out the labor department.
Unemployment filings increased by 21,000 from the prior week and the jump confirms that the labor market continues to struggle with an uneven economic recovery.
The United States recorded a $435.2 billion trade deficit for 2002, the largest imbalance in history.
The weak global economy set back American exports while imports of motor vehicles and consumer goods hit all-time highs.
After a year of slowly moderating price increases, the cost of purchasing a home has started to climb. The median home price in the U.S. – half sold for more, half for less – rose at an annual rate of 8.8 percent to $161,600 in the October to December quarter.
The increase represented the largest jump reported by the National Association of Realtors since 1981.
Construction of single family homes and apartments accelerated in January to the highest level recorded in 16 years as low mortgage rates continued to drive a housing boom, confirmed the U.S. Commerce Department. In January, work was started on 1.85 million units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, up 0.2 percent from 1.847 million units last December.
The median full-time female employee received a 5 percent raise in weekly pay last year, while the median pay for men – half made more, half made less – rose 1.3 percent to $692. The nationwide inflation rate registered at approximately 2 percent.
Full-time female workers made 77.5 percent of male counterparts last year, according to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One key gauge of future economic activity dropped in January, reversing three straight months of gains, explained the U.S. Conference Board. The index of leading economic indicators decreased 0.1 percent to a revised 111.2. The index posted increases of 0.2 percent in December, 0.5 percent in November and 0.1 percent in October 2001.

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