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Utah unemployment rate at 7.5 percent

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SALT LAKE CITY — More Utahns were out of work in November 2010 than at the same time last year, but better times may be on the horizon.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported Thursday that the jobless rate for last month was 7.5 percent compared to 6.6 percent in November of last year.

The data were compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics through its monthly employer survey. Total wage and salary employment in the Beehive state measured 1,200,800, with approximately 102,200 Utahns considered unemployed.

Despite the increase in Utah, the report noted year-over employment improvement, with all growth occurring in the private sector.

The rate of improvement, however, has been slow, according to DWS senior economist Mark Knold.

"This trend mirrors the national employment performance," he said. "Many other economic indicators suggest the economy is in rebound, such as an expanding gross domestic product and healthy earnings at most corporations."

He said the gains are largely being achieved through productivity gains, which mean employers are circumventing employment expansion, illustrating the beneficial and harmful sides of a recession.

Recessions force most companies to re-evaluate how they produce their product to remain competitive, he said. "Many meet this goal by finding more efficient ways to use labor and technology."

While the strategy helps make the economy more efficient and competitive, he explained, the bad side is that it comes at the expense of additional hiring.

"In the long run, this 'productivity squeeze' is good for the American economy," Knold said. "However, (in the) short term, it comes with a price tag of idle workers."

e-mail: jlee@desnews.com