Utah’s construction industry leads another month of solid employment growth in February

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Construction of the Mountain Tech office and industrial complex in Lindon employed scores of workers through the winter, contributing to a 3.2 percent growth rate for Utah's economy in February.

Utah’s economy supported 45,700 more jobs last month than it did the previous February, an annual growth rate of 3.2 percent.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services also reported Friday that the state’s unemployment rate was unchanged in February at 3.1 percent. That meant about 48,600 Utahns were out of work but actively seeking jobs. The national unemployment rate last month was 4.1 percent.

“Utah has experienced another month of healthy growth,” said Carrie Mayne, the department’s chief economist, expressing satisfaction that “unemployment continues to hold steady.”

With February’s additions, total non-farm employment in Utah rose to 1,487,800.

While payrolls for local, state and federal governments grew by 3,600 positions year-over-year, that 1.5 percent increase was small compared to the 3.5 percent jump in private-sector employment.

Leading the way was construction, a bellwether sector for reflecting the strength of the economy. It added 6,700 jobs in the last year, a 7.5 percent increase.

The leisure and hospitality sector grew by 8,400 positions, a 6 percent uptick, while the trade, transportation and utilities sector expanded by 10,200 jobs, or 3.8 percent.

No sector lost jobs. Even companies in the struggling mining and natural-resource extraction industry reported that their employment in Utah held steady from one February to the next.

Manufacturers added 3,700 jobs year over year, a 2.9 percent increase, while 7,000 additional people held jobs in education or health services. Smaller gains were experienced by financial firms and companies providing professional and business services.

In a separate report Friday, figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Utah had the nation’s fourth largest job-increase percentage from November through February.

Employment in the Beehive State grew 0.9 percent in that four-month period, tied with Oregon and trailing only Hawaii and Nevada (1.3 percent) and Wyoming (1.2 percent) in job growth.

That report also disclosed that Utah was one of 12 states in which the unemployment rate for veterans was below 3.0 percent. It was 2.9 percent in the Beehive State last month. The jobless rate for veterans nationally is 3.7 percent.

“Focusing on veterans has always been a top priority for our department,” said Workforce Services Executive Director Jon Pierpont, citing the availability of several programs “to help them transition into their next job and find a fulfilling career.”

As examples, he cited specialized workshops for veterans, programs that try to connect military training skills to private sector occupations and proactive efforts to reach veterans receiving unemployment insurance.