Utah’s jobless rate drops again, to 2.4%, second lowest in the U.S.

Only Nebraska’s is lower, at 2%, while the U.S. rate stands at 4.8%.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) A help wanted sign in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Utah's unemployment rate fell to 2.4% in September, second lowest in the country and on par with where it was just before the pandemic.

Utah’s jobless rate has inched down again, falling to 2.4% in September, ranking it as the second lowest in the country as the state’s economy continues to improve from the pandemic.

Total employment in Utah is now 53,600 jobs ahead of where it was this time two years ago, before COVID-19, with nearly 1.625 million residents now actively in the workforce.

As it has for months, the Beehive State’s unemployment rate ticked down, from 2.5% in August, and held well below the U.S. overall rate, which declined to 4.8% in September.

Rates fell in 27 U.S. states overall in September despite continued fears over the delta variant and persistently high COVID-19 case rates. Only Nebraska’s rate was lower than Utah’s in August, at 2%. Idaho was at 2.9%. The highest rates in the nation were in California and Nevada, at 7.5% each.

A top government economist in Utah said there was still room for improvement in the state’s job market, with approximately 40,100 Utahns unemployed and signs that some are wary of returning.

Engagement in the labor force remains lower than before the coronavirus pandemic’s onset, according to Mark Knold, chief economist for the state Department of Workforce Services, and fears persist over the health risks of reengaging in public interaction.

“We view this as a natural and short-term condition,” Knold said Friday in a statement, “and not a new normal.”

Private-sector employment is now 4.5% higher in Utah than in September 2019. The state added jobs last month in transportation and utilities; professional and business services; construction; and manufacturing.

But, as has been the pattern virtually since the health crisis began, leisure and hospitality outlets shed jobs in September, as did the state’s natural resources and mining sectors.