Editor’s Note: This post was written by Natalie Gochnour, the Chamber’s Chief Economist and Executive Vice President of Policy and Communication.
Hidden behind the national news about an underperforming labor market is a Utah economy that continues to impress. The most recent unpublished, but publicly available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows job growth rates in Utah far outpacing earlier estimates. These revisions are so significant that Utah’s economy appears to have finally reached and even exceeded its historical trend. Here’s what business leaders should know about the new data.
- Back to normal – After a bruising recession, the Utah economy is now growing at or beyond its historical job growth performance of 3.1 percent. Revised year-over job growth in March of 2012 is 3.2 percent, April 3.0 percent, May 3.6 percent and June 3.6 percent. This significantly exceeds earlier job growth estimates that ranged from 1.9 percent to 2.6 percent over the same period.
- Almost recovered lost jobs – Before the Great Recession, the Utah economy peaked with 1,261,809 jobs in September of 2008. The contraction bottomed out in January of 2010 at 1,159,150 jobs for a gut-wrenching job loss of 102,669 jobs. The most recent solid tally of jobs in Utah is 1,254,986 in June of 2012 (there is always a lag with good data). This means that Utah’s economy officially is only 6,473 jobs shy of our pre-recession peak. For all practical purposes we have probably reached that by now, which is great news for everyone.
- Unemployment still a major problem – For all the good news, Utah still needs to make economic development job number one. The Utah Department of Workforce Services estimates that we have 78,700 Utahns out of work. It is a fact of life in Utah that even when jobs are eliminated we add more people to the labor force every year. Job creation should continue to be the top priority for business and community leaders.
- State policies are working – Utah continues to be a leading state in job growth. New job creators like Adobe, Goldman Sachs, ITT, eBay and many others are hiring, creating wealth and opportunity for Utahns. State and local economic development officials are doing a great job. Utah’s careful management of the public purse, low business costs, economically-minded immigration policies, superb transportation system, innovative health care policies and reinvention of the capital city make Utah attractive for business.
- We need continued vigilance – Nothing can deplete positive momentum faster than complacency during successful times. Utah business and community leaders must keep a laser-eye focus on the Utah economy, making prudent decisions that will ultimately return Utah to full employment.
Here is the complete Utah Economic Report from the Governor’s Economic Council, Oct. 11, 2012.