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.
- Rich County improved slightly to 3.0 percent year-over-year job growth in the third quarter adding 25 new positions after growing just 2.2 percent in the second quarter, but in general job growth appears to be cooling off for the county. In 2013 new jobs were being added at an average rate of 48 per year while in 2014 the average rate has fallen to 35 new jobs per year.
- The real estate, rental and leasing industry added 21 jobs since the third quarter last year, but the gains were largely offset by losses in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry.
- The unemployment rate in Rich County remained the lowest in the state at 2.2 percent for December 2014. Falling almost a full percentage point since the same time last year, Rich County has settled a full 1.3 percentage points below Utah’s unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.
- Although the labor market continues to tighten, average monthly wages are still slow to pick up, posting 1.5 percent year-over-year growth in the third quarter. Rich County is not quite keeping up with wage growth for the state which came in a 1.6 percent. The average monthly wage in the third quarter was just $2,056, the second lowest in the state and well below the state average across all industries except for in accommodation and food services where it was 14 percent above the state average.
- Taxable sales in the third quarter topped $15 million in Rich County, for an increase of 7.0 percent over the same quarter last year despite a steep decline in manufacturing industry sales of $720 thousand. The real estate, rental and leasing industry picked up the slack with year-over-year growth of 29.3 percent, adding almost $700 thousand in taxable sales since last year and the accommodations industry was also a notable contributor adding $425 thousand.