The Taylorsville Department of Workforce Services is pictured April 15, 2021. Utah’s unemployment rate hit a record high of 1.9% in April, according to a report released Friday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah labor officials reported Friday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to a record low of 1.9% in April after hovering at 2% for months.
Mark Knold, chief economist for the Department of Workforce Services, said the report offers every indication that Utah’s economy is still recovering well from the constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that began two years ago. years. He thinks those impacts are now in the “rearview mirror” because Utah is one of 11 states with more jobs now than before the pandemic.
“Job creation is progressing as fast as labor supply allows,” he said in a pre-recorded message released on Friday. “Utah is at the top of economic performance at the state level.”
The state rate had fallen to around 2.5% in March 2020 before climbing to around 10% the following month. It has been on a slow decline since, falling back to 2.5% in September 2021 before dropping to new highs from December. There are currently about 33,000 Utahns listed as unemployed.
The national rate is 3.6%.
The report also leaves economists wondering how low the rate can go? Utah’s current unemployment rate means it’s already hard to find new workers and it will get harder and harder as it drops to historic lows. Knold warns that new challenges may soon emerge in the state’s economy.
“Readily available labor is a precious commodity right now,” he said.
His warning, however, comes with a caveat. There is no indication that record unemployment rates will slow the state’s economy anytime soon, the report said. Utah gained 62,400 jobs over the past year, a 3.9% increase in non-farm payroll employment that pushes the state’s total employment count to 1,664,800 total jobs throughout the state.
Knold explained that Utah’s youth are aging and more people are moving to Beehive State, which helps find new workers while other states struggle. The state is in line for two more decades to “grow out” rather than “grow out”. It’s what he calls the “fundamental platform” for Utah’s continued economic success.
“Strong economy attracts workers. New workers keep the economy strong and growing,” he continued. “That strength and growth attracts more workers, and the cycle takes root and perpetuates itself until some exogenous factor rises to interrupt it like a pandemic has done for most of 2020.”
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox touted the report Friday, tweeting that his office is “proud of Utah’s hard-working people contributing to the strongest economy in the nation.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy as a whole is also not sending any worrisome signals at this time, Knold also pointed out on Friday. This could change if high inflation continues to impact the country.
Cox said during his monthly press briefing Thursday that Utah’s “diverse economy” is helping Utahns with record inflation, but a recession would still impact the state. Asked about the US Federal Reserve’s recent plan to raise interest rates to slow inflation, he said the federal government was “on the right track”.
“Unfortunately, they took too long to get there,” he said. “It’s been exacerbated by other federal policies that shouldn’t have gotten us this far. We’ve pushed back some of what I see as reckless spending and wasteful spending by the Biden administration that has added at least two or three (percentage) points … to inflation.”
The governor added that he hoped the US economy did not hit a recession, but that the state’s so-called rainy day fund was full, as never before, just in case.
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