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Wherever the work is, that's where Utahns go

Census data show many cross county and even state lines

In northern Utah's Rich County, nearly one in five workers cross the state line on their commute to work every day.

The county, which borders Wyoming, has the state's highest percentage of workers who work in another state with 19.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's County-to-County Worker Flow files released Thursday.

Randolph, home to the Rich County offices, is at least an hour from a coal mine in Kemmerer, Wyo., where a number of residents carpool for one of three daily shifts.

"There's probably at least two carloads every shift," said resident Becky Peart, whose husband also works there.

Peart said many local women also travel about 32 miles to Evanston to work in accounting positions or as part-time employees at Wal-Mart.

"That's all we've got," she said. "Ranching now with the drought and everything is so scary, you almost have to have a second job."

In Utah, 1.1 percent of workers work in another state. Of those, 18.5 percent work in Nevada and 15.6 percent commute to California.

A higher percentage — 15.9 percent — of Utahns work in a county other than that in which they live.

The census report shows the vast majority of workers have jobs in Salt Lake, Utah, Weber or Davis counties.

"The four Wasatch Front counties make up 78.1 percent of the state's working population," said Neil Ashdown, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget.

Morgan County has the highest percentage of workers in the state who travel outside of the county for their jobs. In Morgan, 61.6 percent of workers commute to another county. Morgan is followed by Davis, in which 45.7 percent of workers leave the county every day for their jobs. Davis is followed by Tooele with 45.5 percent, Wasatch with 43.8 percent and Juab with 40.3.

Workers in suburban counties such as Tooele often live there because it's more affordable than living in Salt Lake County yet close enough to the city that they can commute to work.

"That makes sense to me because those are the areas with the fastest growth," Ashdown said.

In Tooele, 39.1 percent of the workers who work elsewhere commute to Salt Lake County.

People who live in Salt Lake County tend to work there. Salt Lake County has the lowest percentage of workers who work in another county, with just 6.2 percent of workers punching the clock in another county.

Salt Lake is followed by Grand County with 6.5 percent, Washington with 6.7 percent, Millard with 7.5 and Beaver with 8.2 percent.

Workers in rural areas often work where they live because of local manufacturing and agricultural jobs, such as turkey or mink farms, Ashdown said. Many also don't have a lot of options since the areas are more isolated.

"Their jobs happen to be where they are," Ashdown said.


E-mail: ehayes@desnews.com