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Utah's jobless rate stays at only 2.8%

Although there were 30,400 Utah unemployed in January, the state's jobless rate stood at 2.8 percent, unchanged from December.

Ken Jensen, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said the 2.8 percent unemployment rate is lower than the 3.2 percent in January a year ago. Since that time, the number of out-of-work Utahns has continued to decline.In January 1997, 32,800 Utahns were unemployed, a figure that has decreased 7.3 percent to its present level.

Nationally, the U.S. Labor Department reported that unemployment in January was 4.7 percent, the same as in December thanks to strong job growth in construction and real estate.

The nation's employers added 358,000 jobs in January with construction leading the way with 92,000 new jobs, the largest monthly gain in that area in nearly two years.

That partly reflects the strong housing market, said Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Katharine G. Abraham. It's been stimulated by a drop in interest rates caused by the Asian financial turmoil.

Jensen said the number of new jobs created in January increased 4.1 percent over the same month a year ago, which is up slightly from the 4 percent figure reported in December.

For the past several months, Jensen said Utah's job creation rate has increased about 4.1 percent, which indicates a period of sustainable growth following four years of economic boom.

Jensen said year-end revisions in monthly employment data for 1997 have provided a clearer picture of recent job growth in the state's major industrial divisions. Manufacturing employers added 4,500 new jobs in the past 12 months for a 3.5 percent growth rate.

Between January 1997 and 1998, the services sector added the most jobs with 12,300, Jensen said, followed by the trade sector, 8,000; government, 6,200; manufacturing, 4,800; construction, 4,300; transportation/communication/utilities, 2,400; finance/insurance/real estate, 2,200; and mining, 500.