Utah’s jobless rate drops to 2.7% in May; nation’s is at 5.8%

Beehive State is now 4% up on employment compared to the same time two years ago.

(Kim Raff | The New York Times) Employees with Vivint, a home security business, work at their office in Lehi, Utah, Feb. 16, 2021. As vaccination rates rise, Utah's unemployment rate fell to 2.7% in May, well below the national rate of 5.8%.

Utah’s jobless dipped again, to 2.7% in May, well below the national figure of 5.8%.

That’s a tick down from April, when the Beehive State’s unemployment stood at 2.8%, and it puts the state roughly on a par with where its economy was before the onset of COVID-19.

Roughly 44,350 Utahns remained out of work in May, according to the state Department of Workforce Services. That’s down from 46,600 in April.

While Utah keeps adding jobs as vaccination rates rise and its population keeps growing, department economist Mark Knold said Friday that the state’s low jobless rate meant challenges for some employers in getting workers to return. A recent and aggressive push in hiring by the leisure and hospitality sector, for example, drew mixed results.

The Beehive State's jobless rate has been on a downward trajectory since early 2020, as its economic recovery continues to outpace the rest of the country.

“Though Utah’s labor supply is not as fully employed as it was pre-COVID,” Knold said, “workers are not returning at the same speed as jobs are becoming available.”

Gov. Spencer Cox has blamed some of that reticence on enhanced jobless payments from the U.S. government that currently add $300 to the typical weekly unemployment checks from the state. He and Republican governors in at least nine other states have moved to cancel those extra benefits on June 28 — well before the September federal deadline for them to expire.

Utah’s weekly reports on unemployment indicate that 21,789 workers are currently drawing state jobless benefits week to week, as well as the federal stipend approved by Congress as part of pandemic relief.

Comparing current job levels with this same time in 2019, Utah’s private-sector employment expanded by 4% over the past two years, even with heavy pandemic-related layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts through 2020.

The biggest two-year gains have come in professional business services; trade, transportation and utilities; and construction. But several sectors — including leisure and hospitality, natural resources and mining, information technology, and other services — still remain below their 2019 employment levels.