Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Utah's low unemployment numbers hide job deficit

A third of Utahns ages 16 and older are not participating in the labor force, the lowest activity in 26 years. The numbers have risen 6 percent since 2008, Mark Knold, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said in a phone interview.

The figure measures factors in the 61 percent of those employed and the 5.7 percent who are unemployed and looking for jobs.

Recently, Utah’s unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent as the state added 30,300 jobs in 2011, but the state has built up a deficit of jobs during a recovery period that will take years to catch up.

“The message [the unemployment rate] tells throughout history is generally a good message about labor force utilization,” Knold said. “Unfortunately, in the current environment, the message that it is sending is probably more muddied than it is clear.”

Knold says the unemployment rate isn’t as telling because it doesn’t count how many people have given up looking for a job. Deseret News

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