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Utah's March employment report mix of a robust economy and adverse effects of coronavirus

'Put an asterisk by 2.6% job growth last month'
Posted at 9:38 AM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 11:41:47-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s nonfarm payroll employment for March 2020 grew by an estimated 2.6 percent, adding 40,400 jobs to the economy since March 2019.

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The Utah Department of Workforce Services released the March numbers Friday morning.

Utah’s current employment level registers 1,583,000. February’s year-over job growth has been revised down to 2.8%.

March’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is estimated at 3.6 percent.

Approximately 57,900 Utahns were unemployed and actively seeking work during March. The national unemployment rate rose to 4.4%.

The report is far from rosy though.

“The indicators in the March employment release depict a mix of a robust economic environment and Utah’s early experience with the adverse effects of coronavirus,” reported Mark Knold, Chief Economist at the Department of Workforce Services. “The impact of COVID-19 is evident in many of Utah’s industrial sectors as we monitor initial unemployment insurance claims and current job openings.”

Nate McDonald, Asst. Deputy Director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services joined Dan Evans and Kerri Cronk on Good Day Utah Friday morning.

He warned that March's report is not as good as the numbers indicate.

"There are some highlights but you kind of have to put an asterisk in front of March and that's primarily because in the first half of March we were still in a very strong economic period," McDonald said. "The second half of March we really began seeing the impacts of COVID-19, so it really is kind of a mixed number that doesn't quite show what we really are experiencing right now."

The first couple of weeks resembled the Utah economy that had been roaring.

"We saw growth at the start of the month, we had a 2.6 job growth," McDonald said. "But then later in the month as things really started to hit, really every single industry sector we saw unemployment claims coming in."

Still, Mcdonald expects the Beehive State to do better than some other states.

"Utah has one of the most diverse economies so when we go into a session, going into this period we know we are going to be able to handle it better than most due to the diversity of our economy," he said.

McDonald also pointed to a silver lining in the more than 100,000 claims for unemployment benefits that have been made over the pat few weeks.

"Most of these people that are filing unemployment claims are what we call being 'job attached,'"McDonald explained. "Meaning they are temporarily laid off or they're furloughed, but their employer intends to bring them back when things get better."

April employment information will be released on Friday, May 22, 2020.