Utah economy continues to expand while also decreasing unemployment

FILE PHOTO: Image by Ronald Carreño from Pixabay

LOGAN – The number of jobs added to Utah’s economy continues to grow while the state’s unemployment claims continue to drop. According to Utah’s Department of Workforce Services employment summary for May 2022, which was released just last week, Utah’s nonfarm payroll has increased 3.5% over the past 12 months adding a cumulative 55,500 jobs since May 2021.

Over the last year Cache County exceeded Utah’s average by seeing a 3.8% increase in jobs. Box Elder County also saw an increase in its labor force, by 2.4%. Utah’s economy, overall, remains as one of the nation’s strongest.

Statewide, eight of Utah’s ten major private-sector industry groups posted net year-over-year job gains, led by Trade, Transportation, Utilities (11,100 jobs); Leisure & Hospitality (10,800 jobs); Construction (8,100 jobs); and Education and Health Services (7,500 jobs). The two with job contractions are Professional and Business Services (-500 jobs); and Financial Activities (-400).

Nationally, May’s jobs report showed a slight slowdown in growth. The economy gained 390,000 nonfarm payroll jobs, a decrease from 436,000 the previous month. In May, there were notable gains in sectors including leisure and hospitality, transportation and warehousing, and professional and business services (which stands in contrast to Utah which saw a slight decline in that sector).

“Utah’s economic performance continues to push along at a strong pace,” said Mark Knold, Chief Economist at Utah’s Department of Workforce Services. “The unemployment rate remains at an historically low level, and job growth is still one of the nation’s best. The job growth rate has been abating as the year has progressed. This is expected and is a reflection of the current performance compared to a Utah economy that was rapidly improving a year ago. As this year progresses, the more the economy improves from a year ago, the more this year’s job growth will trend downward. We anticipate that by later this year Utah’s job growth rate will be around its yearly average of 3.0%.”

According to personal finance site WalletHub, the U.S. unemployment rate sits at 3.6%, which is still slightly higher than it was before the pandemic but is far lower than the nearly historic high of 14.7% in April 2020. This overall drop can be attributed largely to a combination of vaccinations and states removing restrictions. It will take more time for us to reduce the unemployment rate to pre-pandemic levels than it did for the virus to reverse over a decade of job growth, though.

Graph of Utah’s Year-Over Percent Change in Nonfarm Jobs. Illustration courtesy of Utah’s Department of Workforce Services.

In order to identify the states whose unemployment rates are bouncing back most, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on six key metrics that compare unemployment rate statistics from the latest month for which data is available (May 2022) to key dates in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

According to the WalletHub analysis, Utah ranked 6th among all states and Washington, DC with the best rebound in unemployment. Utah’s numbers are as follows:

  • Unemployment Rate in May 2022: 2.0%
  • Change in Unemployment May 2022 vs May 2019: -18.3%
  • Change in Unemployment May 2022 vs January 2020: -18.2%
  • Change in Unemployment May 2022 vs May 2020: -72.3%
  • Change in Unemployment May 2022 vs May 2021: -28.4%
  • Not Seasonally Adjusted Continued Claims May 2022 vs May 2019: -21.9%

Among Utah’s neighbors, Montana ranked 8th, Idaho 12th, Arizona 14th, Wyoming 26th, Colorado 36th, Nevada 47th and New Mexico 50th.

In order to determine the states whose unemployment rates are bouncing back most, WalletHub focused on two categories. In the first category, they compared the change in unemployment for the latest month for which they had data (May 2022) to May 2019, May 2020, May 2021 and January 2020, in order to show the impact since 2019 and since the beginning of the pandemic. They also compared not seasonally adjusted continued claims in May 2022 to May 2019. In the second category, they looked at the state’s overall unemployment rate, then used the average of those categories to rank-order the states.

Data used to create this ranking were obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor.

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