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Economy is bad if you’re laid off

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Despite a robust economy and one of the lowest unemployment rates on record, work and the risks associated with it are very much an individual matter - as a series of actions the past month in Utah soberly remind us.

Citibank Universal Card Services announced Monday it will close its Salt Lake City operation in October, leaving more than 800 employees with the options of moving with the company or finding new jobs.That followed the jolting news that WordPerfect, a pioneer in the computer software industry, was leaving the state, putting 530 people out of work.

A week before that another high-tech employer sent Utahns scrambling for new jobs as Iomega announced it was letting go some 400 people from its Roy headquarters.

And 111 workers in Cedar City were laid off June 15 when Coleman Co., a sleeping bag plant, closed its operations there and expanded a sister plant in Lake City, S.C.

Welcome to today's evolving economy. In this era of mergers and plant relocations, Utah is bound to take a few lumps along with its economic successes.

While WordPerfect is off to Ottawa, Canada, with its parent company, Corel, other high-tech companies like Gateway and Micron are establishing themselves in the Beehive State and will pick up the slack.

Utah, with its substantial growth projections, is going to gain many more businesses than it loses, but that doesn't make the losses easy to take for those individuals let go by departing companies, many with rich Utah histories.

The Coleman Co., for example, opened its doors in Cedar City more than 30 years ago, in 1967. WordPerfect was founded by Alan Ashton and Bruce Bastian in 1980, setting the course and standard for the high-tech industry in Utah, which now numbers 2,200 information technology companies employing just under 40,000 people and generating $6.6 billion in sales.

Citibank, which opened its Salt Lake City office in 1992, did offer some good news with the bad, stating that all Salt Lake employees will be offered jobs at other existing Citibank locations in Jacksonville, Fla.; Florence, Ky.; and Hagerstown, Md.

And many of those in WordPerfect and the other companies involved in shutdowns or layoffs will be able to find jobs in other firms.

Still, the change will be a traumatic one, whether it involves relocation or a new job locally or elsewhere. After all, regardless of how small or how large the company, they all have this in common: They are comprised of people, not inanimate objects.