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Utah jobs picture brightens, but only slightly

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Employees work in the office in Provo Friday June 15, 2012. plans to hire 50-60 people over the next few months and 400 over the next three years. Some of its clients are Cisco, Dell and newspaper chain Gannett Co.

By paul beebe

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jun 15 2012 09:22AM
Updated Jun 18, 2012 09:49AM

Utah’s job market is showing signs it’s entered a holding pattern, where the unemployment rate and pace of job creation aren’t changing much.

The statewide jobless rate stood at 6 percent in May, unchanged from April, the Utah Department of Workforce Services said Friday.

The number of jobs in the state increased by 2.4 percent in the 12 months ending May 31. Employers created 28,800 jobs during that period. The pace of growth was little better than April’s 2.1 percent year-over-year change. Utah’s long-term rate of job formation is around 3.1 percent.

"We see a Utah economy that is improved over the recessionary period, but yet one that still needs more improvement," said Mark Knold, the department’s chief economist.

By contrast, the U.S. unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in May. Job growth expanded by just 1.4 percent.

In Utah, growth has averaged around 2.5 percent during the past half-year, indicating the economy is still expanding, although not at an accelerating pace. That isn’t likely to change until the U.S. economy begins a stronger recovery, worries about Europe’s debt crisis subside and China’s economy stops cooling, Knold said.

"What’s missing is [we] need help from the outside."

There is good news. Except for leisure and hospitality, all sectors of the economy are adding jobs. Leading the way are professional and business services (9,100 jobs in the past year) and manufacturing (5,000). Construction employment, which had been hammered by the recession, is bouncing back. Close to 3,300 jobs were added from May 2011 to last month.

What’s more, the quality of the new jobs isn’t weighted toward low-end employment. Instead, the caliber ranges across the spectrum, from low- to high-wage employment.

"It’s a nice dispersion," Knold said. "All of [the industrial sectors] are getting their fair share."

The professional and business services category has outpaced all other sectors of the economy every month for more than a year, according to Workforce Services figures. Leisure and hospitality was the only sector that lost jobs. Employment there fell by 1,400 jobs, possibly because the winter did not produce a lot of snow.

"One of the areas that we’re seeing growth in is the professional and technical area. And that is good because that is a high-paying part of the economy in terms of high education levels, high expectations and high monetary rewards, or big salaries," Knold said.

David Elkington might argue that is the poster child for the rapid expansion of professional and technical jobs along the Wasatch Front. His Provo-based software development company has 110 employees, including 56 hired since January. The company intends to hire at least 40 more people by the end of the year.

Elkington founded InsideSales in 2004. The company develops sales tools aimed at driving big productivity and revenue gains. More than 800 companies use the software, including Groupon, Cisco Systems, Dell, AT&T and media giant Gannett Co. The software allows inside-sales agents to use data and technology to locate buyers, contact them through social media and traditional avenues, and close sales quickly. Companies like the software because it produces more sales with fewer sales agents, he said.

"We’re growing like crazy, and the demand for what we are doing exceeds by a long shot our current capacity to deliver it," Elkington said.

Revenue has been growing between 50 percent and 100 percent a year, and 2012 is no different, he said. As a result, InsideSales is hiring sales representatives, marketers, programmers, engineers, statisticians, economists, mathematicians and client services representatives.

All employees are salaried. Pay ranges from $35,000 a year to $250,000, depending on the job, Elkington said." target="_blank">class="TEXT_no_Indent">

Twitter: @sltrib.comTwitter: @sltribpaul

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