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In-Depth: Utah's job numbers show strong cities, struggling rural areas

Posted at 10:22 AM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 19:54:55-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's latest employment numbers continue to paint a rosy picture despite labor shortages over the summer.

The Department of Workforce Services announced Friday that the state has added 65,100 jobs since July 2019, nearly six months before the start of the pandemic.

Utah's July unemployment rate of 2.6% remains well below the national rate which sits at 5.4%. It's the second-lowest number in the country, just over Nebraska with 2.3 percent unemployment.

While the employment rate has dropped by 2.8% nationally over the past two years, Utah's has grown by 4.2%.

Overall, seven of Utah's biggest private-sector industries reported two-year job gains, including:

  • Professional and Business Services: 20,100 jobs
  • Trade, Transportation and Utilities: 18,900 jobs
  • Construction: 13,300 jobs
  • Manufacturing: 8,900 jobs

Across industries, the state saw growth in professional and scientific fields like architecture, engineering and computing, labor-intensive jobs like construction, and in transportation and delivery services.

Utah's five metro areas that encompass the Wasatch Front along with Logan and St. George all showed job growth over a two-year span, from pre-pandemic July 2019 to July 2021.

In fact, Utah's cities collectively gained 14,400 more jobs than the state overall. While some of that may involve Franklin County, Idaho being a part of the Logan metro area, it’s a clear sign that Utah’s rural areas are not experiencing the same positive growth as the cities.

San Juan (-9.8%) and Uintah (-5.6%) counties shed the most jobs, likely because of a downturn in mining and other resource extraction as well as lodging.

The strongest job growth was in two counties adjacent to bigger cities: Tooele (15.1%) and Morgan (9.5%), and in Washington County (9.3%).

Washington County even gained jobs in hospitality industries over the two-year span, bucking a national and statewide trend.

Tooele and Morgan counties have grown as suburban and exurban communities with available land for development.

Despite the job growth in the state and low unemployment, many businesses are still struggling to hire employees. Restaurants are offering higher pay and signing bonuses to entice employees.