Monday, April 27, 2015

Carbon County Economic Update

Tyson Smith, Regional Economist

The Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) relies on several data sources to help describe the state of the economy. The most accurate data available is the nonfarm payroll employment information that is collected through the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. However, the resources required to gather data accurately come at the expense of timeliness, which results in a four to six month lag between the time these data are collected and when they are available to the public.

Other data are collected in a timelier manner, and these data (along with historical trends) provide a foundation to estimate current economic conditions. Economists at DWS rely heavily upon statistical models, surveys, and limited datasets to evaluate the economy in real-time. Some of those tools, like the county unemployment rates and initial weekly unemployment claims, are highlighted in this article.

The truth is that no single source of economic data exists that can appropriately profile the labor market in real-time. So, when evaluating regional economies it is important to understand the recent economic history of the area, while also using any up-to-date information available despite the limitations of present data.
  • Carbon County payroll employment grew in the fourth quarter of 2014 at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent, the eleventh slowest year-over job growth in the state and 1.4 percentage points slower than the Utah average. In total, the county added 131 jobs from fourth quarter 2013. Goods-producing industries added the majority of jobs (125) over the year. Construction growth was particularly impressive jumping 29.5 percent.
  • The county seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.8 percent in March, 1.4 percentage points above the state average. County unemployment rates are down nearly half a percentage point from March 2014, and have been below 5 percent since December. 
  • Initial unemployment insurance claims from first quarter 2015 reflect these relatively stable levels of unemployment. The weekly average of initial claims in first quarter 2015 was approximately 13 claims per week, compared to 14 claims per week during the same period in 2014. It will be worth watching initial claims with the impending closure of the Deer Creek mine (located approximately 20 miles south of Price), which will directly affect 182 high-paying jobs in the area.
  • Average monthly wages in the county increased 5.7 percent from fourth quarter 2013. The jump in average wages demonstrates that the jobs gained in the previous 12 months were in the relatively high paying industries of mining and construction, while the jobs lost were in relatively low paying industries like administrative support and waste management services.
  • Fourth-quarter taxable sales in Carbon County jumped 11.2 percent, an increase of $11.7 million from last year. Business investment expenditures in manufacturing surged by $5.9 million (123.6 percent) from fourth quarter 2013, the largest annual increase in the county. These gains were slightly offset by a $3.1 million decline in the taxable sales of wholesale durable goods.