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The last two years of the 1980s showed a positive turnaround for business growth in Utah and for Utahns in general following three consecutive years of economic decline.

According to a study by the Utah Foundation, a private tax research organization, business activity in Utah grew by a net 1.8 percent in 1989, taking into account a 6.7 percent increase in gross sales volume and a 4.8 percent decline in purchasing power of the dollar due to inflation.The improvement in business activity is reflected in the addition of about 61,000 non-agricultural jobs in the state between March 1988 and March 1989 and a drop in unemployment from 5.9 percent to 5.2 percent in the same period, the study reported.

Also good news for Utahns was an 8 percent gain in personal income in 1989 and a 6.4 percent gain in 1988. These increases are up from gains of 5 percent in 1986 and 5.2 percent in 1987. Utahns exceeded the national average increase in personal income of 7.6 percent in 1989, according to the study.

The boost in business activity also helped produce a state budget surplus of about $128.5 million for the 1988-89 fiscal year, the study reported.

Business trends between 1970 and 1989 show the state experienced an average increase in adjusted business activity of 7.5 percent a year until 1978, but in the following 10 years, activity declined by 2.4 percent, and negative growth was registered in six of those years.

The foundation also reported that Utahns are spending a smaller portion of their personal income on taxable items than they did 10 years ago. Total volume of sales subject to sales tax amounted to $13.9 billion during the 1989 calendar year - equal to 62.5 percent of total personal income for the state in that year. In 1978, sales volume was equal to 79.5 percent of personal income.

According to the foundation report, the figures indicate that a larger portion of income is now going to meet obligations not subject to sales tax - interest payments, taxes, housing costs, medical payments, repayment of debt - or is being saved.