Tyson Smith, Regional Economist
Broad-based economic growth does not always portend positive economic conditions in every community. Utah has seen significant labor market expansion over the last four years, growing at an annual rate of about 3 percent since 2011. And yet, economic recovery in the Castle Country region has been less than consistent.
Carbon and Emery counties – which make up Castle Country – have seen changes to the energy sector greatly impact the primary export industry (mining/quarrying/oil and gas extraction) of the region. Export industries generate new income and investment in a region, thus a dramatic change to a local economy’s exports will reverberate throughout the economy.
- Carbon County payroll employment fell in the third quarter of 2014 by an average annual rate of 2.2 percent, the fifth slowest year-over job growth in the state and far slower than the Utah average of 2.8 percent. In total, the county lost 196 jobs from third quarter 2013. Job losses in the mining industry subsided to a rate of 0.4 percent in the third quarter after falling 2.6 percent the previous period. The majority of the decrease in employment came from service-providing industries like wholesale trade (down 25.6 percent) and transportation/warehousing (down 23.1 percent).
- The county seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.7 percent in December, 1.2 percentage points above the state average. County unemployment rates are down nearly 1 percentage point from December 2013, and have consistently measured between 4.6 and 4.9 percent since March.
- Initial unemployment insurance claims from January 2015 suggest that county unemployment rates will remain relatively low. The five-week average of initial claims in 2015 was approximately 19 claims per week, compared to 21 claims per week during the same period in 2014.
- While employment in Carbon County waned over the last 12 months, average monthly wages increased 2.5 percent from third quarter 2013 to third quarter 2014. The increase in average wages likely reflects that the jobs lost during the year were lower paying than the jobs retained, which has a skewing effect on the average. The increase in wages probably does not reflect a tightening of the job market, which might result in an increase in wages across the board.
- Third-quarter taxable sales in Carbon County jumped nearly 10 percent, an increase of $9.7 million from last year. Business investment sales in manufacturing surged by $9.2 million (216.7 percent) from third quarter 2013, the largest annual increase in the county. These gains were slightly offset by a $2.5 million decline in the taxable sales of wholesale durable goods.