This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
While better-off than most Intermountain and national communities, Utah's major metropolitan areas are "muddling along through the recession," struggling like everywhere to create jobs, a new economic study reported.
"The Intermountain West exemplifies the peculiarities of the Great Recession and its subsequently fragile and protracted recovery," said Jonathan Rothwell and Kenan Fikri, authors of the quarterly Mountain Monitor, produced by the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public-policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
"The profundity of the recession and sluggishness of the recovery have ensured that no metro area in the region escaped unscathed," they said. "In [2010's] second quarter, even the best performers fell on some indicators."
The Ogden-Clearfield area exemplifies the uneven performance.
No metropolitan area in the West and only three others nationally surpassed Ogden-Clearfield in increasing the value of goods and services produced now compared to pre-recession output.
"Despite an economy that is 5.7 percent larger than before the recession, there were still 6.2 percent fewer jobs in Ogden in the second quarter of 2010 than in the fourth quarter of 2007," the report said.
That's the crux of the problem, said the authors, who looked at the region's 10 largest metro areas (including Utah's big three along the Wasatch Front) and 20 smaller communities, including Logan and St. George.
"The defining characteristic of the Mountain West's recovery has been … its lack of job creation," they said, noting that the hiring of temporary census workers inaccurately inflated jobs numbers.
Without that, "the jobless nature of the region's rebound would have been even more starkly apparent."
The report tracked five economic indicators: change in job numbers since employment peaked, rise in unemployment rate since June 2007, change in output of goods and services since the pre-recession peak, changes in housing prices since that peak and foreclosure rates.
Within those categories, several observations reflect the recovery's inconsistency:
Employment growth • Salt Lake City showed job increases at the end of 2009, losses in the first quarter of 2010 and then a gain in the second quarter. No city in the region had a greater job loss than St. George (-16.7 percent).
In the past three months, the report noted, "the hard-hit metros of Boise [Idaho] and Las Vegas were joined by formerly top-performing Ogden, Albuquerque and Provo in suffering another round of employment declines … Provo's contraction was the second starkest in the country, Ogden's the third."
Unemployment • Although Ogden lost jobs, its unemployment rate stabilized, benefiting from increases in foreign and domestic demand for transportation equipment.
Output • Strong performances by petroleum and primary metals manufacturing industries enabled Ogden to increase its output of goods and services by twice the national average. Salt Lake City and Provo experienced enough growth in the year's second quarter to join Ogden among metro areas whose economies are bigger than before the recession, reflecting highly educated work forces and numerous federal jobs.
Housing prices • Values are artificially low in Salt Lake City, Ogden and Provo almost 6 to 8 percent below where they should be but prices everywhere in the West likely will continue to decline.
Foreclosures • Accelerated in every Intermountain metro area except Salt Lake and Colorado Springs. Although Provo and Ogden still have foreclosure rates below the national average, their second-quarter rates exceeded that average.