The Wasatch Front North Edges Ever Closer to Full Recovery
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 Wasatch Front North 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 Wasatch Front North, the unemployment rate fell 0.6 percentage points from December 2013 to December 2014, indicating that the recovery may not yet be complete, but it continues to edge ever closer.
- Weber County maintained steady, but relatively lackluster, employment growth of 2.2 percent year-over-year in the third quarter adding 2,076 jobs. Manufacturing, construction, and professional and business services were the largest contributing industries adding 516, 469, and 487 jobs respectively, while government was a drag on employment growth with losses of 282 jobs since the third quarter last year.
- The unemployment rate in Weber County fell slightly to 3.9 percent in December 2014, the first time it’s been below 4.0 percent since the third quarter 2008. The rate has fallen almost 0.7 percentage points since the same time last year, but remains higher than the state unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.
- The average number of initial unemployment claims filed per week in the fourth quarter of 2014 was 182 claims, about 75 fewer claims than the fourth quarter 2013 weekly average of 257 claims.
- Although the labor market continues to tighten, average monthly wages are still slow to pick up coming in at 1.7 percent year-over-year growth in the third quarter 2014. Weber County is in keeping with the average wage growth for the state which was 1.6 percent. The average monthly wage in the third quarter was $3,103, not too far off from the state average of $3,429.
- Most industries have average wages that are comparable to the state level averages, but the wholesale trade and the professional, scientific, and technical services industries in Weber County have average monthly wages that come in well under the state level averages by 23 percent and 27 percent less respectively.
- Taxable sales in the third quarter reached $960 million in Weber County, for an increase of 6.6 percent over the same quarter last year. The manufacturing industry and the retail motor vehicles industry were the largest contributors each adding nearly $9 million in taxable sales compared to the third quarter 2013.