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Utahns facing work, economy challenges

By Sun Advocate

Female employees in Carbon County and across Utah face the challenge of working outside the home while raising children.
Data compiled in the 2000 census indicate that 61 percent of the women residing in Utah have entered the labor force compared with 57.5 percent nationwide.
The median earnings for full-time year-round female employees amounted to 52 cents per dollar when compared to men’s salaries, indicated Utah Department of Workforce Services economist Lecia Parks.
The census determined that the gender-based wage gap in Utah exceeded every state in the nation except Wyoming.
A longtime researcher of gender wage issues, Langston cautioned Utahns against blaming the gap entirely on salary discrimination.
Wage discrimination accounts for part of the disparity, but historical and cultural influences on education, profession and experience are also factors that determine earning power.
But female workers are not the only residents facing employment challenges in Carbon County and across Utah. The current economic downturn continues to impact all Utahns, especially displaced workers.
Ending April 19, the four-week average of initial unemployment claims filed at locations throughout the registered at 2,090, according to the latest data from the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
All initial filings for jobless insurance benefits totaled 1,994 and weeks claimed numbered 20,013, representing an 11 percent decrease compared to 2002.
Although the employment situation appears to be improving, the results of a recent survey reflect several ongoing concerns regarding the state’s struggling economy.
Only 9 percent of the Utahns surveyed in the Deseret News/KSL-TV poll predicted that economic recovery will start by July 1. Twenty percent thought recovery will begin by Oct. 1, while 30 percent believed the economy will start to rebound by the end of the year.
However, nearly one-third of the Utahns polled expressed a gloomier view, predicting that the economy will not start to recover for at least one year.
In addition, 53 percent of the respondents said they will be less likely to purchase big-ticket items due to the economic uncertainty in Utah and the nation.
At the national level, the gross domestic product – the broadest measure of the economy’s health – grew by an anemic 1.6 percent in the first three months of 2003, indicated the United States Commerce Department.
Consumers increased spending by 1.4 percent during first quarter 2003. Spending decelerated from a 1.7 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2002.
Business investment in plants and equipment contracted by 4.2 percent, following a 2.3 percent rise in the fourth quarter 2002.
U.S consumer sentiment rebounded off nine-year lows in April as the war in Iraq entered into the winding down phase.
The University of Michigan’s final April index of consumer sentiment jumped to 86.0 from 77.6 in March. The final reading was the lowest since September 1993.
The New York-based Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators fell 0.2 percent in March to 110.6, pushed down by worries about higher oil prices, the war and potential terrorist attacks.
But the bigger threat to economic stimulation comes from consumers’ lower expectations, raising “the specter of a fall off in consumption growth,” noted the board.
The U.S. economy remained “lackluster” in March and early April as the war in Iraq dampened consumer spending and the Asian virus cut into international airline travel, confirmed the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The central bank’s latest nationwide survey of business conditions depicted an economy continuing to struggle to emerge from a pronounced slowdown starting late last year.
The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits rose to 455,000 for the week ending April 19, indicated the U.S. Labor Department.
The four-week moving average of jobless claims rose to 439,250 – the highest level since April 20, 2002.
Orders for big-ticket U.S. manufactured items rose unexpectedly in March, buoyed by healthy demands across most categories, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Orders for durable goods which are items that are designed to last three years or more- climbed 2 percent after declining 1.5 percent in February.
Excluding demand for defense items, durable goods orders increased 1.3 percent.
Stripping out the transportation sector, orders rose 1.8 percent, the biggest monthly gain since July 2002.
New home sales shot up by 7.3 percent nationwide in March. This is the largest gain in seven months, as continued low mortgage rates and better weather helped offset two consecutive months of falling sales, noted the U.S. Commerce Department.
But sales of existing U.S. homes dropped 5.6 percent, the second straight monthly fall from a record pace in January.
Faced with uneven economic recovery, a shaky job market and world uncertainty, a steadily mounting number of American consumers are shopping at discount stores.
Sales at ultra-discounters and closeout stores grew 2.7 percent, while the nation’s overall retail sector dropped 0.2 percent.

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