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Sanpete downturn in motion even before

 COVID-19 hit, state economist says

 

By Robert Stevens 

Managing editor

9-10-2020

 

This year has seen the Sanpete County economy take a dive in the vital area of employment, but the downturn was already happening before the public health crisis, say analysts from the Department of Workforce Services (DWS).

“Even before the pandemic hit the economy, Sanpete County was shedding employment” says Lecia Langston, DWS analyst. “By March, the county had lost 176 non-farm jobs [since last year this time].”

That is a 2 percent year-over reduction in nonfarm jobs. In comparison the State of Utah is up 1.7 percent, and the national average is up 0.8 percent.

The industries that experienced the most job losses were retail trade, construction, manufacturing, financial activities and private educational services. Gains in wholesale trade and local government jobs helped to counteract some of the decline. Also, agriculture added a number of positions to the job market which are not included in the nonfarm totals.

Langston says a delay of recent data due to COVID-19 means the figures don’t factor in the impact of the pandemic yet, making the situation all that much more worrisome, as once that data is available, the numbers for jobs are going to get even worse.

Langston says first time claims for unemployment insurance in Sanpete County skyrocketed at the onset of the pandemic, and are currently at comparable rates to the Great Recession.

“Unusually, in Sanpete County, the healthcare and social services industry produced the largest number of claims in the downturn,” Langston says. “Most counties displayed the highest claims in the accommodation and food services industries.”

The seasonally adjusted employment rate is looking slightly more positive than first-time claims. A low dependence on leisure and hospitality industry (one of the hardest hit industries) positions Sanpete to be more resilient with a 3.7 percent unemployment rate. By comparison, the state rate is 4.5 percent and the national rate is 10.2 percent.

In April the unemployment rate spiked to 6 percent, but dropped back down some, although not as low as this time last year.

A bright spot in the numbers, Langston says, is the average monthly wage in Sanpete County took a healthy 4.5 percent increase before the beginning of 2020.