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.
San Juan County
- San Juan County’s employment growth continued to erode in the third quarter of 2014. The county shed a quarterly average of 47 jobs from third quarter 2013 to third quarter 2014, or approximately 1.1 percent. This marked the second consecutive quarter of year-over job losses. The goods-producing industries – down 11.9 percent – accounted for the majority of the job losses. Mining employment fell 14 percent, which represents a quarterly average of 53 fewer jobs.
- As job growth stagnated in the county, unemployment remained relatively high. The rate settled at 8 percent in December (up from 7.8 percent in August), which is the third highest among Utah’s 29 counties. San Juan County’s unemployment rate is still markedly higher than both the state and national averages.
- Fourth-quarter initial unemployment claims paint a more optimistic picture. During the last three months of 2014 the average number of initial weekly unemployment claims fell 24.6 percent from the same time last year. On the other hand, the first few weeks of 2015 show signs that the positive trend may be reversing as initial claims have risen by an average of five claims per week (up 53.2 percent from 2013).
- Average monthly wages in the county also declined slightly. Weakening in the service-providing industries, particularly retail trade and government contributed to falling wages.
- Third quarter 2014 taxable sales in San Juan County fell 17 percent from third quarter 2013. The county experienced a drop in year-over taxable sales growth for the fourth time in the last five quarters. Taxable sales in mining/quarrying/oil and gas extraction fell by $3.5 million, more than any other industry.