96 South Main Street, PO Box 77, Nephi, Utah 84648 - Voice: 435 623-0525 - FAX: 435 623-4735

On our front page this week

  • Utah Department of Workforce Services releases local economic perspective

The short-term surge of economic activity imported to Juab County by the Kern River Pipeline construction has left Juab's labor market in its previous forlorn state. Employment is contracting&emdash;just as it was before the four-month, temporary spurt in growth. Sales likewise benefited from the temporary influx only to decline. On the other hand, some positive signs are popping up. Unemployment rates have edged downward and construction activity has risen dramatically.

The most current data available show Juab County with a 2.4 percent, year-over decrease in nonfarm employment during the second quarter of 2003. This loss of roughly 60 positions is not substantial. But, no one likes to experience job losses. However, these decreases may be moderating. In mid-2002, the declines were ranging near the 5-percent mark.

Many industries experienced declining employment levels making this a broad-based contraction. Nevertheless, during the second quarter, the decrease proved particularly heavy in health care/social services and accommodations/food services. In addition, manufacturing lost positions.

Not all industries waned. Retail trade generated a particularly strong 8-percent boost in employment. Mining and government also added new positions.

Disconcertingly, Juab County's unemployment rate dropped noticeably in the last few months. Of course, the county has a high, percentage of workers commuting outside its borders to a major, metropolitan region where jobs are easier to find. Moreover, jobless rates are available much sooner than job-growth figures. In other words, the declining jobless rate may reflect an uncaptured improvement in employment during the third quarter of 2003.

The county's October 2003 jobless rate measured 5.0 percent&emdash;down from 7.4 percent as recently as, July. That's just slightly higher than the state average (4.8 percent) and substantially below the national average (6.0 percent).

Construction isn't paying any attention to the poor Juab County labor market showing., Between the third quarters of 2002 and 2003, the value of building permits rose by a whopping 127 percent. And, this isn't a one-quarter occurrence. Construction activity has been up substantially for each of the first three quarters of 2003. Year-to-date (January to September) figures. show Juab with a 61 percent increase in values over the same time period, in 2002.

The third quarter increase was generated from several sources. The number of home permits rose by almost half, while the values of those permits increased by three-fourths. Commercial construction also improved with a 450-percent increase in values.

Employment wasn't the only temporary beneficiary of Kern River activity. Expenditures related to the pipeline construction tripled the county's typical sales figures. However, that activity has also evaporated leaving the county with contracting gross taxable sales. Between the second quarters of 2002 and 2003, Juab County's sales dipped by almost 2 percent (year-over).

Retail trade sales just barely maintained their 2002 level. It was a 9-percent decrease in services industry sales that produced most of the damage. Business expenditures and wholesale trade sales also declined.

Employment contraction continues to be a worry in Juab County. Fortunately, many workers can find jobs outside the county's borders, which has nudged unemployment downward. In addition, increased construction activity should start to show up in the employment figures. These indicators, coupled with, a national recovery on solid ground, should benefit Juab County's economy in upcoming months.

PacifiCorp is poised to build.a $350 million natural gas-fired power plant near Mona, north of Nephi. When completed in 2006, the Currant Creek plant will produce about 525 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for about 250,000 homes. The plant will be built in two phases. The first phase will see the installation and firing up of two natural-gas turbine engines capable of producing 280 megawatts of electricity.