When the AC Hotel opened its doors March 21 in downtown Salt Lake City, 45 newly hired people were on staff to handle the needs of guests at the Marriott brand with its minimalist, European style.
These front-desk greeters, sales people and housekeepers were part of an employment surge at hotels and other providers of overnight accommodations that helped lift Utah to an overall 3.3 percent growth rate in March.
“That is beyond healthy,” AC Hotel General Manager Jared Steere, a 15-year industry veteran, impressed by the magnitude of the state’s numbers but not surprised “given how things are shaping up in the market.”
No other state in the country did better last month.
Idaho was next best at 3.1 percent.
That 3.3 percent growth rate translated into 48,000 more jobs in Utah last month than in March of 2017, increasing the state’s nonfarm employment total to 1,501,800 — the first time the 1.5 million threshold has been crossed.
To state Department of Workforce Services chief economist Carrie Mayne, the numbers exemplify “the strength and staying power of Utah’s economy.”
For the jobless rate to remain steady at 3.1 percent, with about 48,500 unemployed Utahns actively seeking work, also pleased Mayne. “Holding our unemployment count under 50,000 is evidence of the alignment between our employers’ needs and the skills of our workforce,” she said.
Salt Lake City’s mature hotel industry became even larger this past year, the AC Hotel being one of the most recent arrivals with its 164 rooms on the southwest corner of 200 South and 200 West.
This industry alone added 2,200 jobs year over year, an 11 percent increase.
In a sure sign of a strong job market, where employees have more chances for better pay and better positions, Steere and the hotel’s human resources officers had plenty of experienced talent to choose from in rounding out the staff of the AC (the initials are those of Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan).
“We did tap into relationships in the market,” he said of recruiting efforts. “Any time anyone builds something new, it’s a curiosity. The fact that this is a Marriott property helped, but AC also is a distinctive brand perceived as sexy.”
That’s how front-desk receptionist Cameron Waters saw it, as he moved over from a Courtyard by Marriott. “I enjoyed being part of the Courtyard’s opening and was looking for a new job,” he said, “so I was excited to be part of something different, a new brand in Salt Lake.”
Waters was joined at the front desk by Jacob and Camille Hollingsworth, a husband-and-wife team who also left another Marriott property to work at AC Hotel. The openings they and Waters left were filled by others, fueling the state’s impressive employment numbers.
Since March of 2017, private sector growth has been especially strong, jumping 3.7 percent.
Two sectors led the way — construction, with many of those new workers involved in erecting the numerous buildings popping up all across the Wasatch Front, and leisure and hospitality. Each grew by 5 percent over the past year.
The broad “trade, transportation and utilities” sector actually added the most jobs — 11,400 year over year, a 4.2 percent gain overall. Air transportation companies grew the most (6.1 percent), and there was also a healthy 6.5 percent increase in jobs at motor vehicle and parts dealers.
Jobs at general merchandise stores held steady in March after posting a 1 percent decline a month earlier.
For the second month in a row, the only sizable job losses occurred at telecommunications companies, which shrunk their payrolls by 1,000 positions (12.8 percent), and internet service providers, whose employee ranks were thinned by 10 percent, or 600 jobs.
Mining and natural resources companies also had 100 fewer employees than in March 2017, a 1.2 percent drop.
The education and health services sector added 7,000 jobs, as did the professional and business services sector. Manufacturing grew at a 3.2 percent rate, adding 4,100 jobs.