Job growth rate ebbs
Utah added 30,700 new jobs to its economy in December, compared with a year earlier, for a job growth rate of 2.8 percent.
The numbers suggest job growth is moderating, the Utah Department of Workforce Services said.
State economist Michael Hanni said job growth previously had been holding steady at about 3 percent a month.
He attributed the slight slowing to a hiring stall in the sector that includes telecommunications, cable, Internet and broadcasting.
The state's December unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, a number that means 53,700 Utahns were unemployed last month. The rate compares with 4.6 percent in November and 5.3 percent in December 2003.
Still several economic sectors, notably construction, saw a healthy burst of hiring in December that should continue through 2005.
Job growth in the construction industry reached 7 percent, according to the report. The state recorded 73,700 jobs in construction, a gain of nearly 5,000 compared with December 2003. The seasonal peak of construction hiring came in August when hiring hit 78,000 workers.
Industry leaders are optimistic the growth will build during 2005.
"Construction employment is one of the leading sectors in Utah's economy," said Associated General Contractors president Rich Thorn. "And that trend looks like it will continue."
Several factors, including highway spending bills at the Legislature, will generate construction jobs beginning this spring, he said. And flood damage this month in the St. George area will have to be repaired. "The tragedy in southern Utah will mean a significant influx of construction work."