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Utah's position near the top of the 50-state jobs derby earlier this year has slipped a few notches, according to government data examined at Arizona State University.

Although the state was No. 3 or No. 4 in the opening months of 2012, Utah now is in a three-way tie for 10th place, according to the university, which reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on Thursday.

The job-growth rate for Utah, Ohio and Vermont each was up 2 percent in July over the same month of 2011. For Utah, though, that was the slowest year-over-year growth rate since June 2011 and a full point under December's 3 percent.

But not to fret too much, advises Mark Knold, chief economist at the state Department of Workforce Services. He thinks the slide might be only a one-month snapshot that obscures the true strength of Utah's job growth. The rate in June was second-best in the U.S., Knold said.

"It's hard to judge the tide by just one wave that hits the shore. If you were to take the average of the last three months, you'll get a cleaner picture, and you'll see Utah in the top five."

Nationally, the job growth rate for the U.S. was 1.4 percent in July. North Dakota, an oil-and-gas-producing state, was No. 1 — for the 38th consecutive month.

Other states that hadn't been in the top 10 are moving up in the rankings.

"California is the state that's really climbing," Lee McPheters, director of the university's JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center, said Thursday.

"California added 362,000 jobs from July to July, placing it second on the list. It's all the way up from 38th place last July."

Big gains in professional and business services accounted for almost one out of every three new jobs in California. Similarly, 30 percent of the jobs created in Utah last month were in that sector, which has led the way for more than two years.

Indiana (No. 5) and Ohio are growing faster now than at any other time since 2000. Those two states have each added more than 20,000 manufacturing jobs over the year.

Job growth could be a deciding factor in the presidential race this year. Three swing states — Colorado, Ohio and Virginia — all exceeded the U.S. job-growth average last month. Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania fell below the average.

Twitter: @sltribpaul —

Top 11 job-growth states (July 2012 vs. July 2011)

1. North Dakota, 6.9 percent

2. California, 2.6 percent

3. Oklahoma, 2.5 percent

4. Arizona, 2.4 percent

5. Indiana, 2.2 percent

6. Minnesota, 2.1 percent

6. Texas, 2.1 percent

6. Louisiana, 2.1 percent

10. Utah, 2 percent

10. Vermont, 2 percent

10. Ohio, 2 percent. —

Top 10 job-growth metro areas (1 million or more workers; July 2012 vs. July 2011)

1. San Francisco, 3.5 percent

2. Houston, 3.2 percent

3. Denver, 3 percent

4. Phoenix, 2.9 percent

4. Seattle, 2.9 percent

4. San Diego, 2.9 percent

7. Cincinnati, 2.8 percent

8. Riverside, Calif., 2.3 percent

9. Portland, Ore., 2.2. percent

9. Boston, 2.2. percent

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, via Arizona State University

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