Utah drops to No. 4 nationally for job creation — but that’s not bad

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Over 1,800 tradesmen are working on the new Salt Lake City International Airport expansion project, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. The first phase construction of the $3.6 billion project is due to open in 700 days. Nearing completion is the new concourse for aircraft gates, an enclosed terminal, the steel skeleton of a new "gateway" building, a five-story parking garage and elevated roadways.

For much of 2018, Utah led the nation in the rate of new jobs created. Then in September it dropped to No. 2. Now, new data for the year-long period ending in November shows it dropped to No. 4 nationally.

But that’s still not bad.

“Work opportunities remain plentiful,” said Carrie Mayne, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

She said Utah’s unemployment rates have been so low for so long that it appears to be slowing creation of new jobs — essentially because fewer people are available to fill them.

“The slight slowing may be due to the prolonged low unemployment rate as tight labor supply can restrain potential job growth,” she said.

For example earlier this year, Salt Lake City International Airport reported its contractors were hiring all qualified construction workers they could find for its $3.6 billion rebuild project — and wished they could find more, but could not.

New data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that Utah created 43,700 new jobs between November 2017 and November 2018.

That 2.9 percent increase ranked No. 4 nationally, behind Nevada (3.8 percent), Arizona (3.6 percent) and Texas (3.0 percent). The national job growth rate for that period was 1.6 percent — so Utah’s rate was 80 percent higher than that.

Eight of 10 private major industry groups measured in Utah showed net job increases over the year period.

The largest were in trade, transportation and utilities (14,500 jobs); education and health services (6,400 jobs); and manufacturing (5,600 jobs).

Sectors losing jobs were natural resources and mining (100 jobs over the year) and the information industry (400 jobs).

For just the month of November, Utah’s unemployment rate was 3.2 percent, compared to a national average of 3.7 percent. Utah had the 13th lowest unemployment rate among the states.

Estimates said 50,123 Utahns who were seeking work were unemployed that month.

Nationally, the lowest unemployment rates in November were in Hawaii and Iowa (2.4 percent each), followed by Idaho (2.6 percent), Missouri (3.0 percent) and New York (3.9 percent).

The highest unemployment rates were in Alaska (6.3 percent), the District of Columbia (5.6 percent), West Virginia (5.2 percent) and Louisiana (5.0 percent).