Utah again leads the nation for job growth

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Salt Lake City International Airport's first phase construction of the $3.6 billion project is hitting the halfway mark — and large new buildings and elevated roadways are more easily seen. Nearing completion is the new concourse for aircraft gates, an enclosed new terminal, the steel skeleton of a new “gateway” building, a new five-story parking garage and elevated roadways.

It’s becoming routine: Utah again led the nation in the percentage of job growth it achieved over the past 12 months, according to federal data released Friday.

The number of jobs in Utah grew by 3.5 percent from July 2017 to July 2018, best in the nation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Utah has been at or near the top of such ratings for months.

Two of its neighbors were just behind it in the latest rankings: Idaho and Nevada saw increases of 3.4 percent each. Alabama and Illinois had the slowest growth rates, at 1.1 percent each.

The agency reported that Utah added 51,100 jobs over that year-long period.

In July, Utah’s unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of a percentage point from the prior month to 3.1 percent, but was still much lower than the national unemployment rate of 3.9 percent.

Hawaii had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.1 percent; Alaska had the highest at 6.9 percent.

An estimated 48,700 Utahns were unemployed during July and actively seeking work.

“Utah experienced yet another month of significant growth in the job market,” said Carrie Mayne, chief economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services. She added the state’s consistent growth in job creation over the past year was “fueled by robust economic conditions.”

DWS said that 9 of the 10 major private sector industry groups posted net job increases over the past year. The one exception was natural resources and mining, which lost 400 jobs.

The largest private sector employment increases were in trade, transportation and utilities (14,100 jobs); education and health services (7,700 jobs); and leisure and hospitality (7,400 jobs).

The Utah job market has been so competitive, for example, that contractors have been having trouble finding enough workers for the $3.6 billion project to build the new Salt Lake City International Airport adjacent to the existing facility.

As airport director Bill Wyatt said earlier this month, “Basically there is zero unemployment in this valley, so go try to find an electrician or carpenter,” adding that if trade people “can stand up and show up to work on time, they’ve got a job because we are desperate.”

He said the airport has about 1,750 construction workers on site daily now. "We’d like to have 2,000 out there by the end of summer, but I doubt we’re going to make it.”