Economy slows in Sanpete after three years of growth—but not to worry, economist says
By Robert Stevens
Sept. 7, 2017
Sanpete County’s economy is slowing down from a three-year run of moderately strong growth and seems to be hitting a plateau in some areas. But an economist with the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) say there is no cause for worry.
One of the key factors in the economic health of an area is job growth, and statistics gathered by DWS economist Lecia Langston indicate that job growth in Sanpete is down from last year by more than half.
According to Langston, the year-to-year change in nonfarm jobs is up only 1.9 percent compared to roughly 4 percent in last year’s tally.
Langston says 146 new jobs were created in Sanpete from March 2016-March 2017. Those numbers were a step down from comparable period between 2015 and 2016 when 314 jobs were created.
“Sanpete County has taken a step back from the strong-to-moderate employment expansion of the past three years,” Langston says in a report on Sanpete County in the DWS “Local Insights” series.
“While the first quarter 2017 rate of nonfarm job growth is the slowest since June 2014, the county continued to add jobs, and the current slowdown does not yet present cause for concern.”
She adds that despite the shriveling job-growth number, the county unemployment rate remains relatively low, with no signs of widespread labor market distress.
First-time unemployment claims are another indicator DWS uses to assess the county economy. For most of 2017, Langston says, first-time unemployment claims were lower than average, but at mid-year, claims began to pick up.
However, the June jobless rate of 3.9 percent shouldn’t spook anyone, Langston says. By comparison, the average first-time unemployment claims for Utah as a whole are at 3.4 percent, and the nation as a whole is measuring at 4.4 percent.
Langston’s reassurance is validated in part by the fact that the slight uptick Sanpete saw in joblessness between July 2016 and July 2017 is actually a common theme across most Utah counties.
“While the economy may not be as robust as in prior months,” she says, “it certainly remains healthy.”
Although employment may be suffering some in comparison to the past few years, Langston says other economic health indicators for the county aren’t half bad.
According to Langston, wages are improving, with a modest 4-percent year-over gain in the first quarter of 2017, which translated to an average monthly wage of $2,330.
Building permit rates in Sanpete County during the first five months of 2017 appear healthy, Langston says, and residential permits currently measure 70 percent of last year’s total issuance (38 so far this year and 58 total last year).
The year-to-year change in gross taxable sales also saw an improvement, at 3.8 percent, but in comparison to the statewide average of 6.8 percent, local numbers could be higher.