Tooele County continues to decline in unemployment despite a contraction in local jobs, according to new state statistics.
Unemployment in Tooele County in January 2014 was 4.9 percent, the lowest level in the last 50 months, according to data released last week by the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The county’s unemployment rate has not been lower since November 2008 when it reached 3.8 percent.
Unemployment in the county has been trending downward since January 2009 when it spiked at 8.9 percent. However, the number of non-farm jobs in the county shrunk 1.1 percent from 15,390 in January 2013 to 15,214 in January 2014, a decrease of 176 jobs.
Tooele County’s unemployment rate continues to fall despite local job losses because people from the county are most likely finding work in other counties, according to James Robson, regional economist for the Department of Workforce Services.
“Tooele County has the advantage of being part of the larger Wasatch Front labor market,” he said, “which allows the labor force in Tooele County to take advantage of work in other counties.”
While the county’s jobs contracted by 1.1 percent when January 2013 is compared to January 2014, Salt Lake County experienced a 3.0 percent expansion in its job count for the same time period.
Utah’s unemployment rate in January 2014 dropped to 3.9 percent, the first time unemployment in the state has dropped to below 4 percent since the start of the Great Recession.
The drop in the state unemployment rate renews questions as to what level economists should consider Utah’s workforce to be fully employed, according to Carrie Mayne, chief economist for the DWS.
“In February of 2007 the [state] unemployment rate reached a low of 2.4 percent. That was unsustainably low and the result of a fully-charged economy pulling individuals into the labor force who under tough circumstances might not choose to participate,” wrote Mayne in her January 2014 employment situation report for the DWS.
Unemployment in Tooele County reached its lowest rate of 2.8 percent in January 2007 and stayed there for six months until it rose to 2.9 percent in July 2007.
In January 2014 the information sector in the Salt Lake City Metropolitan Service Area saw the largest percentage drop in employment. It shed 1,600 jobs, an 8.2 percent decrease. The Salt Lake City MSA includes Salt Lake, Tooele, and Summit counties,
The information sector includes jobs in traditional publishing, software publishing, Internet publishing, movie production, sound recording, broadcasting, telecommunications, libraries, and data processing.
Other job losses in the first month of this year in the Salt Lake MSA occurred in manufacturing and government sectors. The durable goods manufacturing sector had a 1.1 percent decrease in jobs and the number of federal government employees dropped 0.8 percent.
Leading job creation in January 2014 in the Sale Lake City MSA was state government with a 6.9 percent increase in employment, which added 2,008 jobs.
The natural resources, mining, and construction sector saw a 3.5 percent increase in jobs, and employment in the leisure and hospitality sector also rose by 3.4 percent during the same time period.
Statistics on job loss and growth in Tooele County alone for January 2014 are not available at this time.
Out of 29 counties in Utah, eight had a higher unemployment rate in January 2014 than Tooele County. The highest was 11.1 percent in Wayne County. The county with the lowest unemployment rate was Rich County’s 3.0 percent.
The national unemployment rate dropped one tenth of a percentage point from December 2013 to 6.6 percent for the first month of 2014.