While economists say Utah's job growth is still slower than normal, Utah County managed to rise to No. 3 among the nation's largest counties for adding jobs from June 2010 to June 2011, according to federal data released Tuesday.
Utah County added about 6,400 jobs in that period, up 4.0 percent, compared to a national average of just 0.9 percent growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Utah County ranked behind only Ottawa County, Mich., at 4.7 percent growth, and Montgomery County, Texas at 4.1 percent.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake County added about 10,000 jobs for growth of 1.9 percent still more than double the national average. It ranked No. 56 among the nation's 322 largest counties. Weber County lost about 600 jobs dropping 0.8 percent (and ranking No. 271 among the counties).
The BLS did not include data for Davis County, even though it also is among the nation's largest counties, saying data submitted to it did not meet its standards. But Mark Knold, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said state survey data show job growth in Davis County recently has been faster than even in Utah County.
Statewide, Utah had job growth of 2 percent in the period, also more than double the national average. And even more recently, Knold said job growth has been between 2.5 and 3.0 percent, "which is just below our long-term average. Yet the nation and Utah still feel like we are in the recessionary shadow."
Juliette Tennert, chief economist for the Governor's Office of Planning and Development, said several high-tech companies have been attracted to Utah County recently, which she believes helped the job growth there. She noted that many of the new jobs created in that county are in the professional and business-services category, which she believes are there to meet demand by those new or expanding high-tech businesses.
Knold said the job growth may come largely from pressure to provide more goods and services to a constantly growing population. He noted that Utah County also added many jobs in housing construction, education and manufacturing because of it.
"What drives commerce and economics over the long run is population growth, because more people demand more goods and services," Knold said.
He added that while the recession halted that for a time, the pressure from "growth is starting to have an impact and is actually making the economy grow."
The BLS also released data about the average weekly wage. It said the average weekly wage in Utah County was $714, up 5 percent.
It was the only large county in Utah to see an increase greater than the national average of 3.7 percent. Utah County ranked No. 27 for the increase among the nation's 322 largest counties.
Meanwhile, the average weekly wage in Salt Lake County was up 3.0 percent to $833 a week (the percentage ranked No. 125 among counties). It was up 2.0 percent in Davis to $729 (ranking No. 125), and up 1.5 percent in Weber to $671 (ranking No. 256).
"Wage increase generally is in direct proportion to the vibrancy of the local economy. So when you have a little more life and vibrancy in areas, it should produce a little more wage growth," Knold said.
Job growth • Nation's top counties
No. 1 • Ottawa County, Mich., 4.7 percent
No. 2 • Montgomery County, Texas, 4.1 percent
No. 3 • Utah County, 4 percent
No. 4 • (tie) Washington County, Pa. 3.9 percent
No. 4 • (tie) Webb County, Texas, 3.9 percent