Tyson Smith, Regional Economist
Broad-based economic growth does not always portend positive economic conditions in every community. Utah has seen significant labor market expansion over the last four years, growing at an annual rate of about 3 percent since 2011. And yet, economic recovery in the Southeast region has been less than consistent.
The two counties in the Southeast region – Grand and San Juan – have moved in opposite directions since 2011. Grand County has been consistently adding employment over the last four years except for a brief period in 2013. San Juan County has consistently shed employment during the same period, except for a nine-month window from mid-2013 to early 2014.
- Grand County has been the exception among the Castle Country and Southeast counties in terms of payroll employment growth. The 2.9 percent year-over job growth in third quarter 2014 was above the state average, and the county has been consistently adding employment since July of 2013. On average, the county added 158 jobs from third quarter 2013 to third quarter 2014. The educational/health/social services and professional services industries were the big contributors, adding 70 and 46 employees, respectively.
- The recent momentum in the county’s labor market has had a dramatic effect on the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, which has fallen from 7.1 percent in December 2013 to 5.7 percent in December. However, the 5.7 percent represents an upturn since September, and is still notably higher than the Utah average (3.5 percent).
- The recent rise in the county’s unemployment rate is not reflected in the initial unemployment claims data. The number of initial weekly claims filed in the fourth quarter of 2014 was down 23.5 percent from 2013. Given the underlying trend of initial claims, the unemployment rate may stabilize in the short term.
- As the labor market continued its momentum in the third quarter of 2014, so did average wages in the county. Year-over average monthly wages grew 2.8 percent – or 1.3 percentage points faster than the Utah rate. The service-producing industries saw the largest increases, most notably in leisure/hospitality which increased average monthly wages 4 percent.
- Third quarter 2014 taxable sales in Grand County rose by 13.3 percent from 2013, the third largest increase in the state. Accommodation and mining sales increased more than any other industries in the county, improving $4.8 million and $1.3 million, respectively, from third quarter 2013.