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Logan Boasts Nation's Second-Lowest Unemployment Rate


By Elaine Jarvik

Deseret News  
Published: February 5, 2009

In a gloomy national economy, it turns out that Logan is a relative ray of sunshine.
 
Unemployment there was the second lowest in the nation in December, according to U.S. Labor Department figures released Wednesday.
 
The unemployment rate in Logan was 2.8 percent, compared with 7.2 percent nationwide and 22.6 percent in El Centro, Calif., which had the highest rate among the metro areas in the report. The lowest rate in the nation was 2.7 percent, in Morgantown, W.Va.
 
Jobless rates climbed in 363 of 369 large metropolitan areas in the last month of 2008, compared with the same period of 2007. Hard hit were areas dependent on factories serving the struggling housing and auto sectors.
 
Logan, too, saw an increase in joblessness — 0.9 percent over the previous December — but that compares with an increase of 10.6 percent in a place like Indiana's Elkhart-Goshen region, bruised by layoffs in the recreational-vehicle industry.
 
What Logan has going for it, says the city’s economic development director, Kirk Jensen, is the fact that it isn’t top-heavy in one kind of industry.
 
If economic change is often a roller-coaster ride, says Jensen, Logan's “is a mini-roller coaster if you will. When there are downturns, we don’t seem to feel it to the same degree” as the rest of the country. “That said, we don’t ride the economic wave upward as high, either.”
 
With the rest of the economy slowing down, Logan is actually seeing some growth, says Sandy Emile, president of the Cache Chamber of Commerce and director of economic development for Cache County. “We have two hospitals that are both in growth mode.”
 
Even though Utah State University announced this week that it will put all its employees on a one-week furlough to save money, “its Innovation Campus is still putting out new jobs and hiring people,” she says. And “there is more interest in the past month from residential developers considering starting up again.”
 
Economic growth is down, from 4.5 percent to 2.3 percent, “but in this economy, you say, ‘Thank you,’” Emile says. “I’m not saying we’re out of the woods, but our juices are flowing again.”
 
Still, she adds, “I don’t think we’ve hit bottom yet.” The Logan area has seen some layoffs, and “many businesses are in hiring-freeze mode, mainly just watching to see what the economy is doing. But manufacturing entities aren’t closing. It’s more like they’re dropping down to re-situate themselves.”
 
In comparison, joblessness in Las Vegas soared to 9.1 percent in December 2008, according to the Labor Department, a 3.5 percent increase over December 2007. Denver had a 1.9 percent increase, to 6.3 percent. Salt Lake’s unemployment increased 1.1 percent, to 3.8 percent; and Provo-Orem’s also increased 1.1 percent, to 3.7 percent.
 
Nationwide, more than 100,000 job cuts have been announced since December, sparing few communities. The government’s next monthly snapshot of nationwide unemployment is expected to show the January rate climbed to a 17-year high, to a seasonally adjusted 7.5 percent. Layoffs were announced Wednesday by Botox maker Allergan Inc., and Time Warner Cable Inc., for a total of 1,700 jobs lost.
 
“Industries that at first appeared to be immune to downturns, such as computer and pharmaceutical, are now rapidly shedding workers,” said John Challenger, chief of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a placement firm.
 
President Barack Obama and Congress are negotiating a nearly $900 billion stimulus package intended to pump up consumer spending and create jobs. Even if it is quickly enacted, unemployment will keep rising and the country as a whole probably will lose up to 3 million jobs this year, economists predict.
 
Contributing: Associated Press