Cache County was recently listed as the 22nd best place in the U.S. to find a job, according to a a piece published in CNN Money.
In truth, however, the local job market is only slightly less dismal than the rest of the country, said economics Professor Randy T. Simmons.
"CNN is just looking at U.S. Census numbers," Simmons said. "Yes, there are more jobs here in 2010 than there were in 2000, but there are also more people."
According to Utah's Department of Workforce Services, jobs may have increased in Utah, but unemployment has as well. The state average was around three percent in 2000 but is closer to eight percent today. Cache County hovers just below the state average at about five percent.
The CNN article lists the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative as one of the key components in local job growth. According to Simmons, however, USTAR is not one of the major employers in Cache Valley. CNN also listed employers not in the county as critical to job growth here.
"CNN got some of their information confused," said Jacoba M. Poppleton, USTAR public relations specialist. "The Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center is actually in Vernal, not in Logan."
CNN also listed Utah County as the eighth best area for "where the jobs are," yet Utah County's unemployment rate is currently at 7.5 percent — higher than Cache County, according to the UDWS.
"CNN's analysis is very superficial," Simmons said.
The Unpromising Job Market
The job market in Logan is in a sad state of affairs, but it's better off than the rest of the nation, said James Feigenbaum, assistant professor of economics.
"Cache Valley — and Utah — seem to be in a better spot than, say, California or New York," he said. "In a lot of states there have been promises to public employees to grant huge pensions, and Utah does not have such an overpaid public sector. Looking forward, I'd say Utah is slightly better off."
The local capitalist spirit and the young, optimistic students who are eager to work seem to offset the recession slightly, Feigenbaum said.
The more free market approach to business regulation also helps keep the local economy above the water line, Simmons said.
"The cost of government here is low compared to other places. The local government tends to stay out of business, rather than picking winners and losers as they do elsewhere," Simmons said. "Utah's ranked No. 1 or No. 2 economically, and I think it's because we have limited but effective government involvement."
Despite Cache Valley being better off than other places, we are far from trouble free, Simmons said.
"Officially the recession bottomed in 2009, but we haven't had much recovery since then — it's far from over," he said. "I am the former mayor of Providence, and I can tell you that for realtors, builders and everyone else it's been a tough three years. The only homes that are selling are in the low-end market."
Statewide, Utah had one foreclosure for every 450 properties, said economics and finance Professor Benjamin Blau. Cache County only had one foreclosure for every 1,056 properties.
"We face greater uncertainty now than we have since the Great Depression," Feigenbaum said, "It's not just part of the business cycle. It's a demographic shift. There are more old people, and there is going to be a painful transition in the near future."
There have been many layoffs in Cache County since 2008, according to Simmons, who said ATK, Malt-O-Meal and Autoliv all recently made cuts. However, he said, the area did not crash quite as hard as other areas because of less government intervention and business diversity.
"We have a broad academic and industrial base," Feigenbaum said. "The university employs a lot of people, but we also have a more varied set of businesses and industries than most college towns this size."
Director of the Cache Community Food Pantry Matt Whitaker said more people in Cache Country are requesting aid than ever before.
"I chuckle when I hear politicians say the recession is over," Whittaker said. "The number of people coming (to the food pantry) has been trickling higher and higher."
Wayne Jolley, a Logan resident, is one of those who depends on the food pantry for survival.
"Without their help I wouldn't have any way to get dinner for my family," he said. He said he is a father of five.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
CNN Money ranks Logan No. 22 in nation for jobs - USU Statesman - Utah State University