The Uintah Basin continued to add employment throughout the fourth quarter of 2014. Average annual employment in the region grew nearly 4 percent from 2013. Despite the sustained growth trend throughout last year, it appears that the economic conditions in the Uintah Basin are taking a turn for the worse.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services relies on several data sources to help describe the state of the economy. The most accurate data available is the nonfarm payroll employment information that is collected through the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. However, the resources required to gather data accurately come at the expense of timeliness, which results in a four to six month lag between the time these data are collected and when they are available to the public.
When economic trends change dramatically it is important to understand the recent history of the region, while also using up-to-date information to inform the current economic climate. The most recent data that highlight the shrinking labor market in the Uintah Basin are the unemployment rate and the initial weekly unemployment claims, both of which have jumped significantly to start 2015.
- Daggett County experienced the best quarterly year-over payroll employment growth since 2010. Since 2011, total employment has contracted with only the occasional month of growth. Fourth quarter employment grew by 6.3 percent or 23 total jobs. Retail trade employment accounted for the vast majority of job gains at the end of 2014.
- The job growth at the end of 2014 translated into falling unemployment rates in the county. Over the last six months the seasonally adjusted rate fell from 4.5 percent in October to 4.1 percent in March. Daggett County’s unemployment rate continues to be higher than the state average.
- The minuscule initial unemployment claims in Daggett County reflect the small labor force. It is difficult to glean any definitive trends from the initial claims data, because the numbers are so small. With that said, there was a small increase in the average number of weekly claims in the first quarter of 2015.
- The increase in employment did not render an increase in wages. In fact, average monthly wages fell 10.7 percent. This is likely because the employment increase came in the retail trade industry, which traditionally employs low paid, part-time labor.