Provo job market still tight, despite gains


    By Leah Elison

    Relaxing, sleeping in and socializing sounds good to some people, but after six months of searching for a job, Ryan Frederickson is ready to work.

    “It makes me angry you know,” said Frederickson, a graphic design major who graduated in April. “I went to four years of school and did all of this work in a really great program, and I have had no placement.”

    National statistics do not offer much hope; the U.S. Department of Labor reported May 2 that unemployment had risen to 6 percent since March, while the number of jobs had decreased by 48,000.

    Utah”s unemployment rate of 5.3 percent is lower than the nation”s rate and lower than in March, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, but the number of jobs decreased by 0.3 percent.

    In the Provo/Orem area, unemployment has decreased between March and April since 1993, according to the Department of Labor, but statistics for April have not yet been calculated.

    “A lot of things happened in the first quarter of this year to affect rates,” said Jim Robson, a regional economist for DWS. “Any change from one month to the next does not give you a good feel for what is going on.”

    Long-term statistics show an increase in unemployment over the past decade, but a slight decrease over the past year.

    From 1994 to 2000, the unemployment in Utah stayed between 2 percent and 4 percent, significantly lower than current rates.

    Even though unemployment has dropped 1 percent since April 2003, Robson said rates have been fluctuating between 5.3 percent and 5.8 percent over the past six months without showing any consistent improvement.

    “If it maintains itself and stays down for a month or two more, it would be more of an indication of where employment really is,” he said.

    David Dickinson, an assistant professor of economics at Utah State University, said sometimes unemployment statistics are misleading because unemployment rates can drop because of difficult market conditions.

    Unemployment statistics are calculated by dividing the number of unemployed individuals in the labor force by the total number of people in the labor force.

    The labor force is defined as those individuals seeking employment.

    If a worker grows discouraged and quits looking for work, Dickinson said, they are no longer counted as part of the labor force.

    “A slight improvement could actually be a slight fall,” he said. “If someone is discouraged, then they don”t count in the statistics at all. You could always view the unemployment rate as a potential underestimate.”

    Robson said a variety of factors, including worker discouragement, have influenced unemployment rates and limited the effectiveness of the statistics as an economic indicator.

    The disappearance of many of the part-time jobs created during the Salt Lake Olympics disguised the number of new jobs generated in Utah, Robson said.

    Dickinson agreed that the Olympics briefly inflated the number of jobs available in Utah and attracted many new workers, but he said he did not know if Utah was still feeling the effects.

    “It is hard to verify one way or another if the Olympics are a cause,” Dickinson said. “It is hard to say how long you can buy into that as an excuse, but it is fair to say that a one-time, seasonal thing made a blip in a number.”

    In a normal year, DWS expects a net gain of 20,000 to 30,000 new jobs in Utah, said Robson.

    The reason the number of jobs has not increased is difficult to determine, he said, but the same factors tend to affect the number of jobs and the unemployment rate.

    Another relevant factor is the war in Iraq.

    Historically, war has improved the economy in the United States because the military action increases demand for certain goods and services, Robson said.

    The speed of the war in Iraq prevented the typical demand from being generated, he said, but that does not mean the war has not influenced the economy.

    “I don”t know that reconstruction will affect Utah directly,” he said. “But since the war has ended, oil prices have moderated and consumer confidence has improved. That is a plus for the Utah economy. Less spent on energy is more money in the economy.”

    Because of finding a job is difficult, many people are willing to take a pay cut to find full-time work, said Susan Jorgensen, Staffing Manager at Intermountain Staffing Resources.

    “People are actually willing to take just about anything now because there aren”t as many jobs out there,” Jorgensen said. “People are willing to take anything so that they can get to get food on the table.”

    Jorgensen offered a few tips for finding a job, especially while the economy is slow.

    She said honesty is essential, despite the pressure to create an impressive resume.

    Applicants must dress well for interviews, she said, and have an idea of what types of jobs appeal to them.

    Jorgensen”s number one tip for finding is job is to be persistent and resourceful.

    “Look; look hard,” she said. “A lot of people just look in one place, and they say I can”t find a job. Use everything you can, and you will find a job because they are out there.”

    Print Friendly, PDF & Email