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Jobs outlook is mixed

Utah’s jobless rate falls to 5.1% — full point below national

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Utah's unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a point to 5.1 percent in August, making the state's rate a full percentage point below the national jobless rate of 6.1 percent.

The new figures translate to roughly 62,000 unemployed people, many of whom are still waiting for solid evidence of business reinvestment, a precursor to rehiring.

Mark Knold, senior economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said national indicators point to new signs of investment within the information technology sector.

However, Knold said, "It hasn't translated into hirings yet."

In fact, the peak of high-tech employment in Utah occurred in December 2000, when 71,500 people were employed in the industry, he said. That number fell every month since then through March 2003 to 58,600 jobs, an 18 percent decline, according to the most current data available, Knold said.

And the state's total job growth also continues to drop. The year-over change in jobs for August was down 0.3 percent.

"In a nutshell, we have moved sideways for a year," Knold said. "At this point in time, I would be happy if we broke even."

Job growth in the state is down dramatically from two years ago. There are about 8,000 to 9,000 fewer jobs today than there were in 2001.

For August, manufacturing again took the biggest hit, down 2,900 jobs. That is a 2.5 percent decline from the same month a year ago.

"It's been on a four-year slide," Knold said.

Utah industries showing job growth included: information, up 0.3 percent; financial activities, up 1.3 percent; education and health, up 2.6 percent; and government jobs, up 0.7 percent.

Nationally, 93,000 jobs were lost in August. Analysts had expected a gain of 12,000 jobs.

"This suggests that we may be further than we thought from a truly sustainable economic recovery," said Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services Inc., told the Associated Press.

Contributing: The Associated Press

E-mail: danderton@desnews.com