Low unemployment a sign Utah’s economy is strong, but some businesses short on staff

Posted at 9:29 PM, Nov 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-05 09:13:03-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Job shortages may be a thing of the past. Over the past two years, Utah has recorded less than 4 percent unemployment rates.

"That's a significant mark to indicate that our economy is hot right now," said Carrie Mayne, Chief Economist with Workforce Services.

But that might not be great news for business owners.

"Everywhere you look, there's 'For Hire' signs," said Michael Ranquist, a gas station manager in Sugar House.

Ranquist points out an obvious trend that is plastered on billboards, windows, doorways, and even his gas pumps. There's not enough good employees left to hire.

Mayne says part of the reason is due to the booming economy, and the fact that new businesses are opening all over the state. In 2014, Workforce Services estimates that more than 10,000 business were created in Utah. Mayne points out that those businesses need employees.

"It's something that economist worry about," Mayne said. "On one hand, you're doing great with unemployment and high job growth, but at what point do you struggle to find people to take jobs?"

In areas like Sugar House, employers are left raising wages to try to force out the competition. Ranquist says his gas station has raised employee wages $1.50 to stay competitive. He says his gas station hasn't been fully staffed since March, and he's left struggling to remedy the solution.

"Some of my full-time people are having to work 10-hour shifts, and I wish they didn't have to that," he said.

Finding a solution to the problem may be difficult, but Mayne says if wages go up, people who are less likely to take entry-level jobs may be more willing to reconsider. She also thinks word about Utah's good economy will spread quickly.

"As Utah continues to build a reputation, then you can draw people in from out of state to come in and take those job," she said.