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Government sector stabilizes economy

By Sun Advocate

Throughout 2002, Utah posted negative employment. But as the year progressed, the negative rates improved, steadily climbing closer toward a zero percent expansion threshhold.
The economy has not improved the point of adding new employment opportunities, but the state stopped losing jobs and remained relatively steady, pointed out the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Although pundits predict Utah’s economy will begin the climb toward employment growth later in 2003, DWS economists indicate the expansion will likely start to occur in 2005.
The public or government sector continues to act as a stabilizing influence on Utah’s economy.
The United States is the smallest employer of the three levels of government in Utah. Roughly 35,500 Utahns are on federal payrolls.In rural areas, the federal government – primarily the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management – represents a significant employer.
Major federal agencies include the U.S. defense, agriculture, interior and treasury departments along with the post service.
The largest federal employer in Utah is Hill Air Force Base. Roughly 13,000 civilian employees work at the military base.
The Internal U.S. Revenue Service in Ogden claims nearly 20 percent of the total federal workforce in Utah.
The U.S. Postal Service is also a major employer, with 5,400 Utahns on the agency’s payroll.
The U.S. Forest Service, agriculture department branches and the BLM make up 10 percent of total federal workers.
In Utah, the federal government infused $1.6 billion in payroll dollars into the economy for the 35,500 workers in 2002.
In 1960, 10.7 percent of total employment in Utah was federal. By 2002, the figure fell to 3.3 percent. The share of employment accounted for by the federal government has dropped steadily during the last three decades.
State government employs almost 60,000 Utahns or 5.5 percent of total non-farm jobs. Accounting for almost half of all jobs in Utah, Salt Lake County is the location of 59 percent of state government employment.
Education is an important function of state government. Counties with relatively large numbers of state jobs host post-secondary education institutions. In Utah, 53 percent of state jobs are in education.
Local is the third classification in the government hierarchy. Employment-wise, the local sector is the largest.
Local government employment accounts for 9.3 percent of all Utah jobs. Local government includes counties, cities, water and sewer districts as well as Indian tribes.
By far, public school districts account for the largest component of local government employment, noted the department of workforce services.
Public education accounts for approximately 58,000 employees or 58 percent of all local government workers.
The education component is nearly as large as all employment within state government.
In many of Utah’s counties, school districts make the list of the top five employers. In fact, school districts are often the largest employer in a county.
The general pattern across Utah is the smaller the county’s population base, the larger the percentage of total employment concentrated in local government, explained the department of workforce services..
In several counties, local government is the dominant employer.
Regions with 25 percent or more of employment bases in local government include Piute, Daggett, Beaver, San Juan, Rich and Duchesne counties.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, larger counties have the smallest percentages.
Less than 10 percent of the area’s employment bases in Salt Lake, Cache and Weber counties fall under the state employment category.
Federal laws treat Indian tribes as independent governments, added the department or workforce services. Therefore, tribes are classified as local governments. Employment within Indian tribes across Utah registers at more than 800.
Additional functions falling under the local government sphere include courts and public safety, utilities, health care, libraries and recreation, noted the department of workforce services.
The military employs thousands of workers in Utah and plays an important role in the state’s overall economy.
During the last 10 to 15 years, the military’s presence has diminished due to base closures, staff reductions or realignments by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Two major impacts occurred due to the reduction at Tooele Army Depot and the closure of the Defense Depot Ogden, explained workforce services.
Hill Air Force Base, Dugway Proving Grounds and Tooele Army Depot have survived closure and reduction activities.
Although the military experienced reductions in the 1990s, the U.S. Congress reversed the trend by the end of the decade.
As a result, 2001 defense spending in Utah totaled $2.4 billion, representing a 23 percent increase from the prior year.
Last year, the share of total employment contributed by the public sector ranged from 59 percent in Piute County to 13 percent in Summit.
The statewide average registered at 18 percent, noted the department of workforce services.
For many non-metro counties, government is a major source of employment.
For example, of the 10 Utah counties with the highest share of government employment, eight have populations of less than 15,000. The remaining two counties with larger populations – Tooele and Sanpete – have significant government installations.
A higher than average birth rate represents one of Utah’s enduring population traits, indicated the department of workforce services.
For every 1,000 Utah women between the ages of 15 and 44, 94.5 births were recorded in 2000.
The national average of 67.5 is 40 percent less than Utah.
The state with the second highest birth rate is Arizona at 84.4 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age.
Consistently higher rates of birth make Utah demographically unique in the U.S. Age distribution information from the 2000 Census indicates one-half of the state’s population is 27.1 years of age or younger.
The second youngest state is Texas with a median age of 32.3.
The median age for the nation is 36.1.
The large number of children and young adults profoundly effects Utah in terms of the demand for education services.
Utah ranks number one in the U.S. relative to the educational needs of citizens.
Approximately 37 percent of all Utahns are between the ages 5 and 24.
There are about 510,000 children in the elementary and secondary school ages of 5 and 17.
In addition, Utah has in the neighborhood of 310,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, the prime ages for post-secondary technical, college and university education.
In 2002, Utah non-farm payroll wages totaled $32.3 billion.
Wages for publicly funded and private education were almost $3 billion or 9.2 percent of the statewide total.
State and local government education wages were $2.4 billion and private education wages were $561 million.
Utah’s education industry continues to expand, providing 10.7 percent of the jobs and 9.2 percent of wages paid statewide.
In Utah, 56 percent of all state and local government positions are in the education sector.
Most of the employment opportunities are found in the 40 local school districts and 10 higher education institutions.
There are 89,254 state and local education positions in Utah or 8.3 percent of all non-farm payroll jobs.
Private education workers account for 2.4 percent or 25,370 of the jobs in Utah.
Private colleges and universities employ approximately 70 percent of the state’s private education workers.

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