Only 2 workers are available for every 3 open jobs in Utah, analysis says

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) A job fair hosted by Catholic Community Services at the Weigand Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday Aug. 21, 2018.

For every three open jobs in Utah, only about two workers are available. That’s the fifth lowest ratio in America, according to an analysis published Friday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The business group says that could mount a threat to Utah’s long-term growth.

“This lack of workers is holding back economic growth as it becomes harder for existing firms to meet demand and new business to open” nationwide, said Neil Bradley, the chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer.

On average, 81,333 jobs were available per month in Utah during the 12-month period that ended in June, the analysis said. But only a monthly average of 57,071 workers were available then to fill them.

The state’s 0.70 worker availability ratio (available workers per open position) was the fifth lowest nationally. North Dakota had the lowest, at 0.51.

Utah’s labor market was 14.2 % tighter than during the previous year and 85.2% tighter than it was a decade ago, during the Great Recession.

“Available workers vary in terms of experience, skills and location, so they may not match the occupation, skill, location and other needs associated with job openings,” said Ron Bird, the chamber’s senior economist. “This mismatch problem is magnified when the worker availability is low, posing a potentially significant barrier to hiring and growth for Utah businesses.”

Nationally, the worker availability ratio dropped to 0.88 available workers per open job in October, the most recent month for which data is available. That ratio has fallen steadily from a record high of 7.99 in December 2010 and has averaged 2.84, or about three workers per job opening since 2001.

There were 7.63 million jobs opening nationally in October, compared to 6.74 million available workers.

Utah has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation in recent months, and it also has been a leader nationally for creating jobs.

For example, Logan now has the lowest unemployment rate among the nation’s 389 metro areas, and Salt Lake City has the lowest unemployment for metro areas with at least 1 million people.

That’s according to data released earlier this month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It comes two weeks after release of similar data for states showed that Utah matched its lowest unemployment rate ever in November, at 2.4% statewide.

Also in the new data, a third Utah metro area — Ogden-Clearfield — ranked No. 3 among all metro areas nationally for the job growth rate it logged between November 2018 and November 2019: 4.2% (behind only Myrtle Beach, S.C., at 5.1%, and Idaho Falls, at 4.5%).