Monday, April 27, 2015

Uintah County Economic Update

Tyson Smith, Regional Economist

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.
  • Fourth quarter payroll employment in Uintah County grew 4.5 percent year-over-year. The county’s growth ranked seventh among Utah’s counties. Goods-producing industries contributed 319 new jobs to the county an increase of 7.6 percent. Construction employment jumped 30.2 percent from the previous year, adding a quarterly average of 272 jobs. However, the construction industry will be adversely affected by the economic struggles in the oil and gas industry.
  • Like Duchesne County, Uintah County experienced a significant increase in the unemployment rate. Over the last six months the seasonally adjusted rate has swelled from 3.5 percent to 5.2 percent. The number of unemployed workers in the county has risen by 270 people over the last six months (seasonally adjusted).
  • Uintah County also saw a spike in initial unemployment claims in the first quarter 2015. The county’s economy relies heavily on an active oil and gas extraction industry. Falling oil prices have spurred caution in the industry and forced the closer of 74 percent of the rotary rigs in the region. In total, the average number of initial unemployment claims filed each week increased 284.1 percent year-over-year. 
  • Average monthly wages in the fourth quarter increased 4 percent from 2013. Uintah County’s wage growth was slightly below the Utah average during fourth quarter 2014, but the average monthly wages paid in the county were $587 more than the Utah average of $3,705 per month. The majority of that difference can be linked to high paying jobs for oil and gas workers.
  • Uintah County’s year-over change in taxable sales increased 8.9 percent, only the second annual increase since fourth quarter 2012. Fourth quarter 2014 taxable sales in the county were $388.7 million, compared to $357 million in fourth quarter 2013. Wholesale trade of durable goods — the industry with the largest taxable sales revenue — increased $21.3 million.