Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Garfield County Economic Update

Although Garfield County’s jobs growth record isn’t wholly consistent, it has remained primarily in the growth column in 2015. Fourth quarter proved no exception to this pattern. While November’s year-to-year employment slipped slightly, on the whole, the county’s nonfarm jobs expanded moderately. In fact, 2015, was Garfield County’s best employment performance in half a decade. Unemployment, however, has changed little over the past year and remains high due to the seasonal nature of Garfield County’s tourism-driven economy. First-time claims for unemployment insurance remained seasonably low in the first few months of 2016. Gross taxable sales rounded out this economic picture with a moderate fourth-quarter increase.

• Between December 2014 and December 2015, Garfield County added 61 net, new nonfarm jobs for a year-over growth rate of 3.5 percent.

• This moderate expansion occurred despite a notable drop in public sector positions (primarily local government) and the loss of a number of construction jobs.

• On the positive side, a majority of industries added sufficient employment to more than counteract the aforementioned declines.

• Leisure/hospitality services, private education/health/social services and information generated the largest numbers of new positions.

• In March 2016, the county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate measured 8.7 percent, far higher than the statewide average of 3.5 percent.

• Although the county’s rate is the third-highest in Utah, a seasonal economy is responsible for its near-the-top ranking rather than underlying economic difficulties.

• A low seasonal level of first-time claims in the first few months of 2016 lends credence to this supposition.

• Not surprisingly, leisure/hospitality services accounted for the lions’ share of new claims so far this year.

• Garfield County’s average monthly nonfarm wage continued on its slowly improving upward track. The fourth-quarter 2016 year-to-year increase proved particularly strong at 6 percent.

• As in many rural counties, Garfield County’s average wages trail far behind the state average.

• Between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015, the county’s gross taxable sales increased by a moderate 3.9 percent.

• Accommodations, information and retail trade experienced the strongest gains aided by expansion in business-investment expenditures in utilities.