Monday, October 22, 2012

Brief Garfield County Update

As in most rural counties in this part of Utah, Garfield County has yet to fully embrace the economic recovery. While it has seen some months of job growth, for most of the past year and a half employment has waned. New second quarter jobs data finds Garfield County once again on the losing side of the ledger. The remaining local-level indicators also show no clear signs of improvement.
  • After ending the first quarter of 2012 with moderate growth, the county’s employment picture took a turn for the worse. Between June 2011 and June 2012, Garfield County’s nonfarm jobs decreased by about 1 percent—a decline of 26 positions. While the losses weren’t particularly large, they still show an economy that has yet to fully recover.
  • Blame it on the public sector. Government lost more than 50 positions—both at the federal and local levels. The only other job loss of note occurred in wholesale trade. On the other hand, the counties mainstay jobs in the leisure/hospitality services did show a slight contraction.
  • Retail trade picked up some of the employment slack along with a little help from the information industry.
  • After a surge in jobless rates in 2011, Garfield County’s unemployment has reduced in recent months. Currently, the county’s August 2012 seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate stands at 10.3 percent—decidedly higher than the state or national averages. Don’t expect this relationship to change any time soon. The seasonal nature of the county’s tourist-based economy means rates will always run higher than less-seasonal economies.
  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance—always slow during the summer months slowed to a virtual standstill in September—another sign that the labor market is adjusting in the right direction.
  • After a promising surge in nonresidential permit activity earlier in the year, construction approvals have slowed. For the first six months of 2012, home permits are down 18 percent and overall construction values have slipped a whopping 63 percent.
  • Gross taxable sales are the brightest star in the Garfield County economic sky. Between the second quarters of 2011 and 2012, sales jumped by 8 percent. In eight of the last nine quarters, the county has experienced year-to-year sales increases.