Utah’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in April, the lowest it’s been in nearly six years.
"This is good news for us today and going forward," Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday after the state Department of Workforce Services released its monthly employment report. "We expect our best days are ahead of us."
The report showed that Utah’s economy supported 36,800 more jobs last month than in April of 2013, a moderate growth rate of 2.9 percent. At the same time, the number of unemployed people actively seeking work declined to 55,200 — down from 64,400 in April 2013.
Nationally, the unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, with 1.7 percent job growth.
Noting that Utah’s jobless rate was 7.4 percent when he became governor in August 2009, Herbert called 3.8 percent "a really great number … approaching full employment."
This is the third time in four months the jobless rate dipped below 4 percent. It had peaked at 8.2 percent in February of 2010 after reaching a pre-recession low of 2.4 percent from January through April of 2007.
"We’re gaining some momentum," Herbert said, predicting the state’s commitment to STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — will entice more companies to move or expand here, creating higher-paying jobs.
"We’re doing all we can to have a fertile environment for the private sector," he added, including Workforce Services’ efforts to provide more skills training to the long-term unemployed, many of whom "are still having a hard time."
Carrie Mayne, Utah’s chief economist, said the figures describe a state economy that is "vibrant" and will remain so "moving into the summer and the latter half of 2014."
Boosting her confidence were figures showing all 10 industry sectors the state tracks had more people on the payroll in April than a year earlier.
Herbert likes that variety.
"Our economy is really broad based. We have the fourth most [diverse] economy in the country," he said, contending financial stability helps the state get things done. "If you get a healthy economy, everything else tends to fall into place."
The trend-setting construction industry was much improved over a year ago. Construction employment was up 7.7 percent over April of 2013, when that sector was trailing the rest of the recovering economy with paltry job growth of 3.4 percent.
Last month’s accelerated rate meant jobs for an additional 5,500 Utah workers.
Companies involved in trade, transportation or utility work created the most new jobs — 7,900 — but that’s such a big sector that the growth rate was just 3.2 percent.
The next biggest job increase occurred in the leisure and hospitality industry, where the addition of 6,800 jobs represented a 5.5 percent gain over the previous year.
Businesses that provide information-related services experienced a 5.9 percent growth rate, but being a smaller sector, that translated into only 1,900 new positions.
Government employment has made a big turnaround.
In April of 2013, it was the only sector with negative employment growth — down 3,100 positions, or 1.4 percent, from 2012. But local, state and federal agencies more than made up for that decline with the hiring of 4,900 more people over the past year, department figures show.
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