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According to a forecast by a national economics firm, Utah County's service industry is doing its part to boost local wages.

The projections by Woods & Poole Economics, published recently in American Demographics magazine, say wages in service jobs will grow more in the Provo/Orem area in the next 15 years than any other metropolitan area. The numbers are based on business surveys conducted by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.Even though Utah County's wages in service jobs are projected to grow by more than 31 percent, they'll still be lower than the national average. Woods & Poole projects that the average service-job wage in Utah County in the year 2010 will be a little more than $24,000 a year. The national average wage for service jobs is predicted to be about $26,600.

A service job is defined as any position that doesn't involve manufacturing or producing a product. Most service jobs fall in the fields of entertainment, health care, education and business services. High-tech support jobs are considered a business service.

Larry Rhodes, manager of the Provo Job Service office, says the numbers show local wages are on the rise but still have a long way to go. The average household income in Utah County is currently about $16,500 a year.

"Utah County could use a boost in wages, it's been a long time coming," Rhodes said. "But it's not being reflected across the board yet."

With a local unemployment rate hovering between 2 percent and 3 percent the past few years, Rhodes said wages should be increasing faster. Many job categories have a significant shortage in applicants, but some employers are refusing to increase wages to attract quality workers.

"Many still think they don't have to pay more, but if they want the best workers, their pay has to be competitive," he said.

The number of service jobs in the Provo/Orem area also is projected to grow substantially. Woods & Poole projects that local service jobs will grow by 39 percent over the next 15 years, the 14th fastest- growing market in the country. By the year 2010, Utah County will have more than 63,000 service jobs.

Rhodes says the numbers indicate the makeup of Utah County's job market is following the national trend. Service jobs are replacing goods-producing jobs.

"Month after month, year after year, that industrial category has been the job growth leader," he said.

In 1970, about 32 percent of the nation's jobs were in the goods-producing industry. Now only 15 percent of jobs are in goods production.

Areas experiencing the most growth in service jobs are retirement communities or those with many high-tech industries. Rhodes suspects the projections for Utah County are related to population increase and the local high-tech environment. He also credits municipalities and the county for economic development.



Service jobs: PROJECTED 1996-2010

Fastest Growth in Earnings

Rank Metro Area Percent Change* 2010 Annual Earnings

1 Provo/Orem, Utah 31.5 $24,172

2 Myrtle Beach, S.C. 31.1 $21,246

3 Punta Gorda, Fla. 30.4 $23,300

4 Las Vegas, Nev. 29.1 $32,687

5 Santa Fe, N.M. 28.7 $24,136

Ave. all metro areas 21.6 $26,662

Fastest Growth in Jobs

Rank Metro Area Percent Change*

1 Orlando, Fla. 59.4

2 Laredo, Texas 57.5

3 Sarasota, Fla. 48.6

4 Naples, Fla. 45.5

5 Middlesex, N.J. 43.7

14 Provo/Orem, Utah 39.3

Ave. all metro areas 22.1

* 1996-2010

Source: Woods & Poole Economics