Third quarter 2013 found Garfield County once again shedding employment. Garfield County only experienced year-over job gains in four of the last 32 months. Although the area was among the first Utah counties to expand as the recession ended, its labor market now struggles.
Between September 2012 and September 2013, Garfield County lost more than 150 jobs (a decline of 5.6 percent). Moreover, the county’s employment levels measure lower than in any year since the end of the recession.
The current rash of employment declines can be laid at the feet of the county’s key industry. Leisure/hospitality services lost nearly 160 jobs in the 12 months following September 2012. The next-largest industry loss (government’s 16-job decline) pales in comparison. Meager employment gains in private education/health/social services provided little offset to the aforementioned losses.
Garfield County’s jobless rate remains stubbornly high at 9.3 percent in December 2013. Of course, Garfield County generally displays a higher-than-average unemployment rate due to the very seasonal nature of its economy. On the other hand, the county’s jobless rate has not dropped as steadily or as dramatically as in many neighboring counties.
Gross taxable sales provide the brightest economic note. Third-quarter sales increased by 5 percent and follow a relatively steady wave of sales improvements.
Changes in employment levels provide the best indicator of a local economy’s condition. Until Garfield County can consistently grow jobs, its economy will continue to suffer.