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Manufacturing job losses, stalling residential prices hindering Utah’s recovery

By Sun Advocate

During the last two and one-half years, Utah has lost nearly 15,000 manufacturing jobs statewide.
The figure represents one of every nine factory positions previously available in Utah.
The number includes the jobs of nearly 1,000 steelworkers eliminated after Geneva filed for bankruptcy in January 2002 and the mill closed, indicated the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Utahns working in the aerospace, clothing, computer, food and other industries also have been affected in the statewide employment downturn.
Along with encountering losses in employment opportunities, Utah witnessed a meager 2.5 percent increase in home prices during the fiscal year ending June 30.
The performance is worse than all states except Nebraska, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.
The office’s quarterly house price report indicate that national average was 5.6 percent.
In addition, Utah families continued to lose private residences to foreclosure at a higher rate than the national average, indicated the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In Utah, 2.98 percent of consumers with mortgages insured by HUD’s federal housing administration program were in foreclosure in July, compared with a national rate of 1.45 percent.
But the situation has not deterred immigrants from coming to Utah.
After attracting fewer than 59,000 immigrants in 1990, Utah welcomed nearly 162,000 in 2002.
The number of people immigrating to Utah last year represents slightly more than 7 percent of the state’s overall population, based on estimated figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American community survey. The percentage ranked Utah 21st nationally.
On a more positive note, Utah will receive $9.6 million in funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with $4.4 million from the health resources and services administration to help the state deal with issues ranging from preparedness planning to public information campaigns to laboratory improvements.
Questar Gas softened the impact of the company’s 25 percent rate increase that took effect in July by requesting a 6 percent decrease effective Oct. 1. The decrease, if approved by the Utah Public Service Commission, will take effect at a time of year when many residents rely on gas-powered furnaces to heat homes.
At the national level, non-farm payrolls fell by 93,000 jobs in August after dropping 49,000 employment opportunites in July, confirmed the U.S. Labor Department.
But the nationwide unemployment rate still managed to dip to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent in July.
The nationwide jobless rate dropped primarily because the size of the labor force shrank by 10,000, following a loss of 556,000 in July, pointed out the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Approximately 8.9 million Americans were counted as unemployed in August, compared with nine million in July.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that productivity soared at an annual rate of 6.8 percent in the April-to-June quarter.
The nationwide expansion in worker productivity registered stronger than the federal government’s initial estimate – a 5.7 percent growth rate.
United States workers comprise the world’s most productive labor force. However, Americans put in more hours than Europeans to score higher, according to a study released by the United Nations International Labor Organization.
Workers in France, Belgium and Norway beat the Americans in productivity per hour, indicated the study.
The United States’ current economic expansion is the worst on record in terms of job growth, noted the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
The nation has lost 2.7 million jobs during the last three years. The recovery has been so weak since the recession officially ended in November 2001 that American payrolls are down one million jobs from when economic growth resumed.
The average length of unemployment, more than 19 weeks, spiked in the summer to the highest level recorded in two decades, according to the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
On a more positive note, a report issued by the U.S. Commerce Department showed that America manufacturers watch-ed as the demand for products inched up 1.6 percent in July.
The strength in factory orders was broad-based with durable big-ticket goods and non-durables posting gains.
In addition, the Institute for Supply Management reported that the August manufacturing index rose to 54.7, the highest increase posted since last December. The index increased from 51.8 in July. The components pointed to the latest burst of factory activity picking up steam, noted the department of workforce services. New orders for goods poured in at a faster pace and, as a result, manufacturers boosted production to the highest level since June 1999.
Showing confidence in the U.S. economy, America’s consumers ratcheted up spending in July by the largest amount reported in four months.
Spending increased 0.8 percent in July following a brisk 0.6 percent rise in June, confirmed the U.S. Commerce Department.
Consumer behavior constitutes a major factor shaping the recovery because spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of all economic activity in the country, explained the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Although five districts reported business being affected by the mid-August power outage, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest snapshot of the nationwide indicated that the negative impacts were generally small.
Regarding the nation’s economy as a whole, the agency’s survey confirmed that progress is being made at all locations across the Federal Reserve’s 12 districts.
The data indicated that the U.S. economy continued to improve in July and August.
But on a negative note, nearly 1.4 million additional residents in the United States fell into poverty last year.
Almost half of the Americans falling into poverty were children, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey.
Approximately 12.4 percent of the U.S. population or nearly 34.8 million individuals lived in poverty in 2002, according to the federal bureau’s American Community Survey.

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