SALT LAKE CITY — Scott Bowen sells ads for a campus newspaper to augment his wife's salary while he searches for full-time work. Pamela Rose has two part-time jobs, but needs full employment with better pay and benefits. Sara Brueck Nichols was laid off unexpectedly Monday and isn't sure what's next. And Cynthia Knight has gone back to school for a social work degree.

The four Salt Lake-area residents are all feeling their way through the employment terrain in Utah, where job losses were still climbing in January, although more slowly than in previous months. State economic experts believe the worst of the recession is over, but added that employment numbers traditionally are slow to improve as a recovery gets going.

Utah's nonfarm wage and salaried job count for January shrank by 2.9 percent compared with the previous January. About 35,300 jobs have been removed from the state's economy since January 2009, lowering employment to 1.17 million, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers released Tuesday. Job loss numbers are year-over-year, so January 2010 is being compared to "the freefall" that occurred in January 2009, said Workforce Services chief economist Mark Knold. The biggest one-month job losses of the recession were in December 2008 and January 2009, then losses seem to have bottomed out in August 2009.

Nationally, unemployment has dropped 3 percent to 9.7 percent in January, the U.S. Department of Labor said.

The next stage is stablizing the economy, which should be followed by actual growth. "We're in the stabilization phase, which has two components: stopping job losses and creating new jobs," Knold said, noting "we're not completely there yet" in terms of stopping losses. The modest job creation, happening especially in the arena of temporary workers, is not yet strong enough to counter the ongoing losses.

Still, "a few months ago we were not talking about gains at all." And unemployment claims have slowed in the last few weeks, he said, although it's too soon to say it's a trend.

Utah's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased two-tenths of a percentage point to 6.8 percent. The December rate was revised down to 6.6 percent. But last January, the state's rate was 5.6 percent. In January 2010, 91,500 Utahns were considered unemployed, an increase of 13,900 workers from the previous January.

Knold said the job loss rate counts jobs lost, while unemployment figures only include people actively looking for work. It doesn't count those who, like Knight, opted to go back to school or do something else. As recovery becomes more stable and more jobs become available, unemployment numbers may temporarily look even worse as people who have left the job search once again start hunting.

Knight had already started college part-time when she was laid off in October 2008. The mother of four searched unsuccessfully for a job that would fit her school schedule before opting to attend full time.

Bowen's entry into the job market came at a rough time. He graduated from college and served an internship in New York, but the company had a hiring freeze. The internship is his only professional experience, so it's been a challenge, he said.

Rose's biggest challenge has been paying for health insurance, she said. Her old company has had two layoffs since the one that claimed her job.

Brueck Nichols was laid off three times in four years, but feels blessed because each job was more challenging and rewarding. "Now, I'm at the point in my life and career when I am rethinking the traditional 40 hour work week and looking at a combination of some consulting and part-time work. So I woke up this morning energized and excited about the possibilities," she said. Including more time with her daughters, Gianna, 2, and Maya, 6 months,

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