Utah leads nation in job growth over past 12 months

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Work on a new Concourse A at Salt Lake City International Airport was being done Feb. 20, 2019.

Utah led the nation for job creation over the past 12 months, according to federal statistics released Friday.

Its non-farm employment grew by 3.6 percent in the 12-month period through July, adding 54,400 jobs.

That rate tied with Nevada for No. 1 in the nation. It was more than double the average job rate growth nationally of 1.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Utah’s stellar economic performance continues,” said Mark Knold, senior economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

“Job growth remains strong while the unemployment rate is low,” he said. “Jobs are plentiful and expanding job growth implies employers are resourceful in attaining a sufficient labor supply even in this low unemployment environment.”

Utah’s private sector employment grew by 4.0 percent in the 12 months with the addition of 50,900 positions. All 10 of the private sector industry groups measured posted net job increases in July.

The largest increases by number were in education and health services (12,300 jobs); professional and business services (11,800 jobs); and manufacturing (6,600 jobs). The fastest employment growth rate occurred in information (6.4%); education and health services (6.3%); and construction (6.0%).

Utah also had the nation’s fifth lowest unemployment rate in July at 2.8%, compared to the national rate of 3.7%, according to the new data.

That 2.8% matched the rate in June, and was the lowest in 12 years. About 45,400 Utahns were unemployed and actively seeking work during July.

The only states where unemployment was lower were Vermont (2.1%), North Dakota (2.4%) and New Hampshire and Iowa (2.5%). The states with the highest unemployment rates were Alaska (6.3%); Mississippi (5.1%) and Arizona and New Mexico (4.9%).

The low unemployment and booming economy have sometimes created challenges in some industries to find enough workers.

For example, “Labor shortages are a continuing problem in our industry,” Utah Department of Transportation Department Project Development Director Kris Peterson told the Utah Transportation Commission on Friday.

It came during a discussion about higher project costs caused by that, and difficulty sometimes in attracting bidders for work.

Also last month, Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Salt Lake City International Airport, said 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.”