Utah’s unemployment rate drops to 12-year low: 2.8%

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Tradesmen work on the new Salt Lake City International Airport expansion project on Oct. 22, 2018. Officials say low unemployment rates make it difficult to find enough qualified workers for that and other local construction projects.

Utah’s unemployment rate in June hit what officials say is its lowest level in 12 years — 2.8%. And Utah ranks No. 3 nationally in the net number of jobs it has added in the past 12 months.

That’s according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The Utah economy remains strong and continues to absorb and employ labor at a fast pace,” said Mark Knold, senior economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services. About 45,500 Utahns are unemployed and are actively seeking work.

Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Salt Lake City International Airport, said earlier this week that the low employment rate has made it difficult to find enough construction workers for its $3.6 billion project to essentially build a new airport on top of the existing one — and that has raised costs to attract qualified workers.

“There are certain types of labor we just can’t get,” Wyatt said. “I mean, if you’re a licensed electrician in Salt Lake County and you’re not working and you want to, something else is going on because you just can’t find” electricians.

He said massive construction at the airport and other large projects have “just drained this county of available trade labor. It’s really a challenging thing, and it’s pushing costs up to some extent.”

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Utah’s unemployment rate of 2.8% compares to a national rate of 3.7%. Utah had the fifth lowest rate nationally behind Vermont (2.1%), North Dakota (2.3%), Iowa (2.4%), New Hampshire (2.5%).

The highest unemployment rate in the nation was 6.4% in Alaska, followed by 5.6% in the District of Columbia and 5.0% in Mississippi.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that seasonally adjusted non-farm jobs Utah grew by 2.7% in the past 12 months through June — ranking No. 3 nationally behind Nevada (3.3%) and Arizona (2.8%).

“It is remarkable that Utah can still grow the employment base” by such a rate “given this extremely tight labor market,” Knold said.

All ten of the private-sector groups measured in labor surveys in Utah posted net job increases in the past 12 months.

The largest were in education and health services (9,900 jobs); professional and business services (8,600 jobs); and manufacturing (6,300).

The fastest growth by percentage was in education and health services (5.0%), followed by manufacturing (4.7%) and information (4.4%). Other quick-growing sectors included profession/business services (4.0%); leisure/hospitality services (3.8%), and construction and natural resources (both at 2.1%).

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