By Matt Schroeder
Post-recession economic recoveries are long and arduous processes no matter what, but recessions involving financial crises are historically even slower. Utah and the Bear River region have been plugging along steadily for the last few years recovering jobs at an average rate of 2 to 3 percent per year and reaching a point where most counties have surpassed pre-recession levels. Yet economists still talk in terms of recovery rather than in terms of normal economic expansion. Why is that? How do we know when the recovery is complete?
There are a variety of indicators that economists look at when determining the relative progress of a recovery. One important one is the unemployment rate. When the unemployment rate bottoms-out (i.e. when it stops falling), it may be a sign that labor markets have reached a “natural” or stable state, and thus recovered. In the Bear River region, the unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points from December 2013 to December 2014, indicating that the recovery may not yet be complete, but it continues to edge ever closer.
- Cache County maintained steady 3.3 percent year-over-year payroll job growth in the third quarter of 2014 adding 1,660 jobs to the economy over the last year. The last three quarters have each broken the 1,500 new jobs mark – a level of job creation not seen in Cache County since the first quarter of 2008.
- The accommodations and food services industry showed impressive year-over-year growth of 7.7 percent adding 269 jobs. Retail trade, manufacturing, and professional, scientific, and technical services were all also major contributors, adding 307, 286, and 219 new jobs respectively.
- December 2014 posted a 3.1 percent unemployment rate for Cache County. This is up 0.3 percentage points since September, but still represents a 0.1 percentage point drop since December 2013 and registers 0.3 percentage points under Utah’s overall unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.
- Average monthly wages in the third quarter increased 1.8 percent over 2013 but at $2,642 per month, the level remains well below the state average of $3,429 and the difference is spread broadly across most industries with 10 of 12 major industry sectors posting average wage levels more than 15 percent below their respective average wages at the state level.
- Taxable sales in Cache County were up for the tenth consecutive quarter at 4.6 percent year-over-year reaching $385 million, but in comparison to the rest of the Bear River region in the third quarter 2014, the pace was relatively leisurely. Motor vehicle and parts dealers led the way with $3.2 million in additional sales over the third quarter of 2013. General merchandise stores and food services and drinking places also had notable increases of $2.2 and $2.5 million respectively.