Three of the area’s counties continue to struggle to reach sustained long-term expansion. Iron, Kane and Beaver counties all showed year-to-year declines in nonfarm employment between March 2011 and March 2012. Of course, Beaver County’s current losses stem primarily from the completion of the next phase of wind farm construction. In addition, the year-to-year decreases in both Kane and Iron counties remain relatively small. Each of these counties has experienced some job gains since the end of the national recession, but has struggled to maintain growth.
Garfield County re-entered the job-winner category in first quarter, while Washington County maintained its trend of increasing employment gains. Both registered faster job growth than both the state (3.3 percent) and the nation (1.6 percent). In Washington County, jobs are certainly back. Between March 2011 and March 2012, the county’s employment base grew by a robust 5.4 percent—the fastest of any metropolitan area in Utah. In addition, the only counties showing more rapid expansion are those where the oil boom is skyrocketing employment. Garfield County has experienced some wild employment swings since the end of the national recession and is currently showing moderate expansion.
Here’s a brief description of first-quarter data on a county-to-county basis:
Beaver County’s nonfarm employment has dropped by almost 4 percent since March 2011. Again, the lion’s share of this loss is associated with completion of the most recent phase of wind farm construction. Building-industry jobs dropped by more than 150 positions over the past year. Excluding these construction losses would place Beaver County on the positive side of the ledger. However, most industries did show some marginal job loss. The resurgence of mining employment made the greatest job additions with a little help from its friends manufacturing, retail trade, and government.
Garfield County’s wildly swinging job-growth pendulum has rocked back into positive territory. Between March 2011 and March 2012, the county made a net addition of 65 jobs—up almost 4 percent. Employers in the leisure/hospitality industry contributed the largest share of new employment. Of course, this industry does account for roughly 40 percent of the county’s nonfarm employment. Construction, manufacturing, and retail trade also sweetened the labor force pot. Nevertheless, two industries registered significant losses—wholesale trade and private education/health social services.
Iron County has faced a rocky road climbing out of the economic downturn. It did manage tepid growth through much of 2011. However, as of March 2012, the county is once again experiencing year-over declines in employment. Admittedly, the current decline is small—only 0.3 percent. This slight contraction brings hope for an expanding economy in future months. The county’s industries display a mixed bag of job loss and job gain. On the losing side, private education/health/social services and professional/business services took the principal hits with construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and information joining the minor job-loss league. On the positive side, wholesale trade, financial activities and leisure/hospitality services showed notable gains.
Kane County has also experienced its share of employment ups and downs in recent months. However, after peaking with a 4-percent gain in November 2011, the county now displays a 0.6 percent loss. This loss occurred despite a nice, tidy expansion in leisure/hospitality services employment. Nevertheless, this proved the only job expansion of note. On the job-losing side of the tally, retail trade, private education/health/social services, and other services all experienced employment contraction.
Washington County conveys the best employment news of the southwestern Utah region. Between March 2011 and March 2012, net additions to Washington County’s total employment count measured almost 2,500 jobs—an increase of 5.4 percent. The county’s past participation in the housing boom and bust had given it one of the worst recessions in Utah. However, it now shows the best job performance of Utah’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Moreover, every major industrial sector showed job gains. In fact, leisure/hospitality services, professional/business services, private education/health/social services, retail trade, manufacturing, construction (yes, construction), and wholesale trade each added 200 or more new jobs to the Washington County economy.
You can access more detailed data by selecting your county from the list here, and clicking on the Current Economic Snapshot and Nonfarm Employment links. Be sure to use the interactive visualization below to check out your individual county's employment history.