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Utah’s 2% unemployment feels good but it means businesses are still scrambling for workers

Utah Now Hiring Signs, March 15 2022
Brian Albers
/
KUER
A collage of business signs seen around downtown Salt Lake City all point to one thing: many businesses are hiring as the state's unemployment rate remains low, March 15, 2022.

Utah’s June 2022 jobs report shows the state holding steady at a low 2% unemployment rate.

Although that may sound like great news, there’s a catch: many employers still struggle to find workers to fill open positions.

Utah’s unemployment rate has remained virtually unchanged in 2022, with only about 35,000 people out of a job.

The state has added more than 56,000 jobs in the last year. Even though low unemployment and continued job growth are generally seen as positive, many Utah businesses are understaffed.

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Mark Welcker, president and CEO of Point of the Mountain Chamber of Commerce in Lehi, said businesses across all sectors of the economy are looking for workers in his area.

“It’s not a unique thing to maybe, like, the tech companies who have openings that have just been unfilled for a while where people are just not qualified,” he said. “It spans across the board to where even maybe an entry-level job for a teenager or mid-level management. It’s hard to find employees to fill those positions.”

Department of Workforce Services Chief Economist Mark Knold said recent job growth has actually been bolstered by workers coming in from out of state.

“Job growth is stronger than one would expect with only 2% unemployment to support new job creation,” said Knold. “That means that labor migration to Utah from other states is the added economic dynamic.”

There’s also another statistic on the horizon that worries economists: a shrinking national workforce. A 2019 report by nonprofit economic think tank The Conference Board said the working-age population in the United States is decreasing as more people retire and fewer new workers enter the market to replace them.

For Knold, that puts the economy in uncharted territory.

“What the Conference Board is noting is that this country has never faced so many workers exiting out of the labor force while there is not even an equal number aging in, let alone an excess aging in.”

Knold said current job numbers are about as strong as the Utah economy can produce.

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