Despite recent layoffs by EnergySolutions and Tooele County government, the unemployment rate in the county fell for the fourth consecutive month to 5.8 percent in October, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. This is the first time the unemployment rate for the county has been below 6 percent since November 2008.
“It is a good sign to see the unemployment rate coming down,” said Jim Robson, DWS regional economist. “However, we aren’t sure when the people recently unemployed will show up on the statistics.”
October 2012 unemployment figures may not include all people who lost their jobs in the month of October. People recently laid off that received a severance package, went back to school, or for others reasons are not currently looking for a job will not be picked up as unemployed until they file for unemployment benefits or start looking for work, Robson said.
Tooele County’s unemployment rate for October remains higher than the state average, which fell to 5.2 percent, but is well below the federal unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.
In October 2011 the unemployment rate for Tooele County was 6.5 percent.
“The Utah economy is on the mend,” said Mark Knold, DWS chief economist, who cautioned that the recovery will be a multi-year process. “The process began in earnest this year and it should keep its momentum going into 2013.”
Tooele County’s unemployment rate typically runs a little higher than the state average because the county has a younger workforce and is dependent on manufacturing industries. Both of these areas were hit hard by the recession, according to Robson.
Tooele County did experience employment growth for October 2012 compared to October 2011, with an increase of 258 jobs for a growth rate of 1.6 percent with manufacturing, re Job growth in Utah was 2.3 percent for that same time period.
A large percentage of Tooele County’s labor force, 45 percent, continues to find employment outside of the county, according to Robson. Salt Lake County employers created 22,823 jobs in October 2012 compared to October 2011 for a 3.9 percent job growth rate.
However, finding work outside the county can be difficult for some county residents, according to Karen Kuipers, Tooele County Relief Services coordinator.
Public transportation into Salt Lake County from Tooele County is designed around people who work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, said Kuipers. For people working evenings and weekends, public transportation is generally not an option.
“We are seeing an increase in people that need help getting to Salt Lake for job interviews,” said Kuipers. “Once they get a job they may need help with gas money until they get their first paycheck.”
The statewide drop in unemployment over the past year has been due to people finding employment as opposed to people leaving the workforce, as was the case in the previous two years, according to Knold.
In Tooele County, the labor force, comprised of people over 19 ether working or actively looking for work, increased from 27,859 in January 2012 to 28,841 in October 2012, a 3.5 percent increase, while the total number of people unemployed declined 2.9 percent over the same time period from 1,723 to 1,672.
“There are still a lot of people who went to the labor force sidelines during the recession years who will probably make their way back into the labor force at some point over the next few years,” said Knold. “But it will probably be a slow trickle process, and the unemployment rate should inch down further over the next year.”