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June unemployment in Utah was virtually unchanged from May

SHARE June unemployment in Utah was virtually unchanged from May

The 2.9 percent unemployment rate for Utah in June was virtually unchanged from May and the figures seen in March, according to Ken Jensen, chief economist for the Department of Workforce Services.

"With the estimates in for the first six months of 2000, it now seems clear that Utah's unemployment rate has made a sharp shift downward from the 1998 and 1999 level of about 3.7 percent," Jensen said in a prepared statement.

"In this respect, the year 2000 is thus far similar to 1997, when Utah's unemployment rate averaged 3.1, the lowest rate since at least 1950. Abut 32,700 Utahns were unemployed in June 2000, far fewer than the 42,500 of a year earlier, when the rate was 3.9 percent."

Nationally, the United States' unemployment rate of 4.0 for June is down one-tenth of a point from what economists noted in May. It is only a little higher than the 3.9 percent seen in April, which was the lowest unemployment rate for the U.S. in more than 30 years.

Last year, the U.S. rate was 4.3 percent.

Bob Gross, executive director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, indicated that although the jobless rate has stayed quite low, there has been no sign of wage/price inflation, which often is the case.

"The very low unemployment rates for Utah and the United States in recent years are still a little unsettling. I can clearly recall an economics professor a few years ago stating that an area's unemployment rate could not remain below 5 percent for long without serious wage/price inflation.

"Yet, Utah's unemployment rate has been below 4 percent for going on eight years, and the U.S. rate has been below 5 percent for going on four years with only occasional wage inflation and very low consumer price inflation," Gross said. "This illustrates one of the more interesting things about studying economics: Surprises occasionally occur."

The construction industry still remains the fastest growing industry division. Since June 1999, the construction industry in Utah has created 4,300 new jobs, with a growth rate of 5.7 percent.

The diverse services industry also remains a significant factor in the state's economic health, although its rate of job creation has slowed from nearly 6 percent in December 1999 to a current rate of 3.3 percent.

Department figures show that the slowest growth was in the finance/insurance/real estate division, which has gained only 200 jobs since last year, a rate of 0.4 percent. This has been attributed to the overall slowing of the state's economy, higher interest rates for mortgages, concerns about the stock market, and wariness about bank acquisition plans and their consequences.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com