Officials: Small uptick in Utah unemployment is nothing to worry about, for now

Utah welcome sign | Photo by AndreyKrav/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A small uptick in unemployment in Southern Utah and the state as a whole is offset by the fact that employers are continuing to add jobs at a breakneck pace.

Graphic shows unemployment and job growth rates in Utah versus the U.S. average | Image courtesy of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, St. George News

The latest data provided by the Utah Department of Workforce Services show the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.2 percent from August to September.

During the same period in Southern Utah, unemployment also went up one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.5 percent in Washington County. Iron County’s unemployment rate remained steady at 3.6 percent.

Utah’s overall unemployment rate still ranks below the national average of 3.7 percent.

“We’re confident that the increase in unemployment is not a sign of any weaknesses necessarily in our economy,” said Carrie Mayne, chief economist at the Department of Workforce Services.

Graph compares unemployment rates in Utah and the U.S. | Image courtesy of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, St. George News

Mayne said no solid conclusions can be drawn from the small uptick, explaining that officials would need to see an upward trend over a period of several months to explain the increase as anything other than the normal ebb and flow of the economy.

“There’s nothing to be concerned about at this point in time,” Mayne said.

“Despite the fact that our unemployment rate ticked up, looking at our job growth numbers, we know that employers are adding jobs,” she said. “And so there’s opportunity for these job-seekers to get employment.”

Indeed, jobs continue to be added in Utah at a rate much higher than the national average. With a year-over growth rate of 3.6 percent in September for nonfarm jobs, Utah continues to be among the top-performing states for employment growth.

“The latest job market statistics indicate that our state continues to ride the momentum of healthy expansion,” Mayne said, noting that private sector job growth was even higher than overall growth at 3.8 percent.

Nine of the 10 private sector industry groups measured by the Department of Workforce Services posted net job increases in September. The sectors with the largest increases in terms of numbers are as follows:

  • Trade, transportation and utilities at 12,800 jobs.
  • Education and health services at 8,300 jobs.
  • Professional and business services at 7,900 jobs.
Chart shows changes in various employment sectors in Utah | Image courtesy of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, St. George News

Of the sectors measured, the fastest rate of employment growth occurred in trade, transportation and utilities at 4.6 percent; financial activities at 4.4 percent; and manufacturing at 4.2 percent. Natural resources and mining was the only sector to see minor negative growth, with 100 jobs lost year-over.

At the county level, Washington County continues to outpace the rest of the state in job creation with a year-over growth rate of 7.1 percent and over 5,000 jobs added. Iron County is also above the state average at 4.6 percent growth with around 800 jobs added.

The fastest growing employment sectors in September in the St. George metropolitan statistical area, which comprises all of Washington County, are as follows:

  • Education and health services at 11.5 percent.
  • Retail trade at 9.8 percent.
  • Leisure and hospitality at 9.6 percent.

While all employment sectors measured by the Department of Workforce Services saw year-over growth in the St. George metropolitan area, some of the lowest-performing industries in terms of job growth include information at 0.9 percent, wholesale trade at 1.3 percent and financial activities at 2.6 percent.

No year-over data has been released specific to Iron County as of September, but in 2018 as a whole, some of the highest-performing industries in the county include manufacturing; leisure and hospitality; and education and health services.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • DRT October 25, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    ‘“We’re confident that the increase in unemployment is not a sign of any weaknesses necessarily in our economy,” said Carrie Mayne, chief economist at the Department of Workforce Services.”
    Well babe, if you were out of work, I guess I’d not worry about you, either.

  • stevenxfiles October 25, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    It’s so funny to hear the old boys network of employers around here constantly gripe that they can’t find good reliable workers, yet… their jobs pay way below national average market rates. And they don’t offer quality health benefits. And they expect you to sacrifice your family and everything else to be available anytime they need you for “other duties as required”.

    Business owners please note – If you really want a good reliable long term employee who will be a great investment in the long run, stop trying to only hire young kids right out of school who you can take advantage of until they smarten up and decide to go back to school or move to a big city for better pay.

    Find a seasoned adult with a family and roots. Treat them like an adult, a real professional. Keep your logo coffee cups, bowling nights and Hawaiian shirt Friday contests. Nobody cares about that stuff.

    Compensate them well with real pay, benefits and autonomy and they will Never leave you. This is so simple but it seems so rare with local businesses around here.

    Either that or just keep going at 100% staff turnover and struggling to keep trained people showing up for work every day.

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”

  • Henry October 25, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    I would guess that unemployment in SoUT is low because people have to work at least 2 jobs to make ends meet. The pay is awful here; we lose talented workers to other states that pay a living wage. Just last week there was an article lamenting the lack of applicants for St George Police & WashCo Sheriff dept. with starting pay at $17-18/hr, we’re lucky we have any law enforcement down here. I love my hometown, but the wages are awful.

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