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Unemployment in Utah continues to buck the national trend as the number of Utahns out of work dropped from 4.5 percent in January to 4.4 percent in February, the Utah Department of Employment Security reports.

"Utah has held out against the national recession one more month," said Lecia Parks Langston, chief economist for the department, while releasing the monthly report.At 4.4 percent in February, Utah's unemployment rate was higher than the 4.2 percent rate in February 1990, which means 2,400 more Utahns were out of work in February this year than the same month a year ago.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Labor reported a 6.5 percent jobless rate, the highest figure in four years, as about 450,000 Americans were added to the jobless rolls.

The national figure in February jumped from 6.2 percent in January and was the largest one-month increase since 1986, Labor Department officials said.

Since unemployment began climbing last June - when the rate stood at 5.3 percent - about 1.6 million Americans have been added to the ranks of the unemployed. In February alone, nearly 500,000 people lost their jobs and started collecting unemployment benefits.

In Utah, Langston said the state's labor market remains in good shape. "Although Utah's layoffs are definitely distressing to the individuals involved, they have not yet affected the overall economy.

Despite layoffs, Utah created 29,100 net jobs in the past 12 months. In February, non-farm employment totaled 729,800 jobs. Langston said the state still is generating employment at a moderate 4.2 percent rate.

Langston said state officials aren't oblivious to the national downturn, but a sufficient number of jobs are being created to keep the labor force employed, "and we believe Utah will continue to weather the national economic storm nicely."

Following the trend of the 1980s, between February 1990 and February 1991, the service industry created the largest number of jobs of any major industrial sector. The 13,000 positions added account for 45 percent of Utah's net new non-farm jobs and also represent a 7 percent increase for the industry.

Langston said big employment producers in services included computer software companies, which showed an 18 percent increase in jobs; engineering and management firms, which showed a 14 percent increase; and jobs in hotels and and other lodging places, which showed a 12 percent increase.

She said the construction industry continued to show strong employment growth in February with 1,400 new jobs created, a 6 percent increase. Ongoing non-residential construction projects fueled the construction industry's healthy addition to the employment figures.