Posted on 19 April 2007

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Utah‘s job growth rate stays ahead of nation

State is pulling in workers from around the country

By Lesley Mitchell
The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated: 04/17/2007 11:35:32 PM MDT

Utah‘s economy clearly was supposed to be slowing down in 2007 after years of unparalleled prosperity.
Instead, job growth registered 4.5 percent for the year that ended in March, the Utah Department of Workforce Services reported Tuesday. Although that rate is down significantly from a peak of 5.4 percent last June, it remains one of the highest in the country – much higher than the national rate of 1.5 percent.
With the job-creation rate going against form and remaining steady in recent months, “Utah’s economy is definitely not following the script,” said Mark Knold, chief economist for the Department of Workforce Services. “It’s impressive that our economy is holding this high rate of growth. I certainly didn’t think it would.”
Knold said the tight labor market and shortage of workers was supposed to curb job creation because employers should have reached a point where they simply couldn’t find more workers.
“But the weak national economy is actually working to our advantage. It provides an incentive for workers elsewhere to come here.”
Because of layoffs and poor economies elsewhere, many employers in Utah who have exhausted the local labor pool are having success recruiting out-of-state workers instead of being hamstrung by positions they cannot fill.
Recruiters at the Intel-Micron joint venture, IM Flash Technologies in Lehi, are recruiting workers from around the country. They are settling not only in Lehi but through- out the Salt Lake Valley.
Mark Cornelius came from Virginia to work at IM Flash. He and wife Heather are building a home in Draper they hope to move into later this month.
Even though home prices in the state have jumped in recent years, the couple consider the relative affordability of Utah real estate to be one of the key reasons they decided to take the job offer.
“Homes are still more affordable here than in Virginia,” Heather Cornelius said. “You can’t buy any type of house under $400,000 in much of Virginia. Here you can still buy a really nice house.”
John Wallace, an associate broker specializing in relocations for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Orem, said many people who visit the state on a job interview find Utah appealing.
“I’ve done more relocations in the last three months than I usually do in a year,” he said, adding that he has assisted people moving from Albuquerque, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas – all with jobs before they came to Utah.
Companies statewide are adding jobs, although much of the hiring activity is focused along the Wasatch Front. All industries seem to be in on the action, with construction leading the way.
With job growth so high, the state’s unemployment rate remains very low. The jobless rate was 2.4 percent at the end of March, down from 3.1 percent in March 2006 and significantly lower than the national average of 4.4 percent.
With such a low unemployment rate, Utah is technically in a state of full employment – meaning almost everyone who wants a job can find one.
The current up-cycle for Utah’s economy and job market began in late 2003. By 2004, job growth climbed to 2.4 percent. By 2005, it was 4 percent. Job growth in 2006 ranged from 4.6 percent in January to the high of 5.4 percent in June.
In all, the Utah economy has created about 53,500 jobs over the past year, raising total wage and salary employment in Utah to 1.23 million. This increase translates to an average monthly job gain of about 4,400 jobs.
Only about 31,500 Utahns were unemployed in March 2007, down from 40,500 in March 2006.

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