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Job picture promising

Utah added 21,000 this year; building is the top industry

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Utah will continue to add jobs through the first quarter of 2005, according to a new report, even though mounting signs of inflationary pressures are emerging.

The Creighton Economic Forecasting Group — which surveys local supply managers and business leaders in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming — said Friday that Utah should maintain a 2 percent job growth rate over the next two quarters.

Roughly 21,000 new jobs have been added in the state in this year's first nine months, the report said, making up 39 percent of all the jobs created in the three-state region.

Utah's leading industry was construction, while the state's lagging industry was information.

From August 2003 through August 2004, Utah has added 26,500 new jobs, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

The report also noted that Utah's economic index of 56.9 in September was up from August's reading of 55.9. An index reading of 50 indicates future economic expansion.

But the report noted concerns looking forward.

"It is clear from our recent surveys of supply managers that higher commodity prices, including energy, are producing and will continue to produce a slower pace of job growth for the fourth quarter," Ernie Goss, director of the Creighton Economic Forecasting Group, said in a prepared statement. "This prolonged upward trend in inflationary pressures in the region is having an impact on confidence."

The Creighton survey is patterned after the Institute for Supply Management, based in Tempe, Ariz., which reported Friday that "economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in September for the 16th consecutive month, while the overall economy grew for the 35th consecutive month."

U.S. manufacturing activity in September had an index reading of 58.5, down from 59 in August, but still above the 50 mark.

"The manufacturing sector continued to grow during September, but at a slightly slower rate," Norbert J. Ore, chair of the Institute for Supply Management, said in a prepared statement. "Both new orders and production remain strong, and employment growth accelerated."

The Creighton index surveys between 100 and 150 Utah supply managers, representing a cross-section of industries.

Also Friday, the Commerce Department reported that U.S. construction spending jumped in August to the highest level ever. The 0.8 percent increase to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.02 trillion reflects continued strength in the housing market.

The increase was double what economists had been forecasting, and July's figure was revised to reflect an even stronger month than previously estimated.

"This was an extremely strong and encouraging report," said Kenneth Simonson, chief economist at Associated General Contractors of America.

The generally upbeat manufacturing and construction reports contrasted somewhat with the University of Michigan's index of consumer confidence for September, also released Friday. That reading declined to 94.2 last month from 95.9 in August, lower than had been expected by economists.

Contributing: The Associated Press; E-mail: