SALT LAKE CITY — New unemployment data released Wednesday shows some encouraging news for Utah. The state's January unemployment rate of 3.1 percent was less than half of the rate for the United States (6.3 percent) as a whole.
The state had 7,700 (about one-half of one percent) fewer nonfarm payroll jobs in January of 2021 compared with January of 2020.
But some areas, such as Summit County, still had a high unemployment rate in January.
"A lot of the industry sectors in the state are doing well, but the one that's been hit [...] the hardest has been anything related to the leisure/hospitality sector. So, economies whose lifeblood, so to speak, is based upon that industry sector is going to have the most impact in this economic setback, and in the winter months it's going to be Summit County," said Mark Knold, Chief Economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services."
Two southern Utah counties—Washington and Grand—saw increases in job in January 2021 when compared with January 2020.
"You may not be getting the international travelers coming into those southern Utah parks, but it's being countered by people such as wanting to come out from California," Knold said. "I actually had gone into the southern Utah parks between Christmas and New Year's, and I was amazed at the diversity of license plates."
Knold said it's unclear what will happen to other hard-hit areas like Duchesne and Uintah counties, where the economies are tied heavily to energy.
"Oil prices have gone back to a level that historically, we've seen, has spurred reactivity and reinvestment and really kicked up the Uintah Basin economy. That was not the case over the last year, year and a half. The energy prices were even falling before COVID hit, and that just made it all the worse. So, it is a different dynamic there. It is energy-based and that has, I think, more of a potential to be a lingering problem than would an economy that's dealing with the leisure/hospitality sector and starting to now look at that light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines starting to come in," Knold told FOX 13.