Salt Lake City achieves lowest unemployment rate among nation’s largest metro areas

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Construction worker ties into a rebar column at large building project at 200 South between 200 West and 300 West Tuesday on May 2, 2017. The Salt Lake City metro area now has the lowest unemployment rate among the nation's metro areas with at least 1 million residents.

After Utah just set an all-time record for low unemployment statewide, new data show that two of its metro areas also are national leaders.

Salt Lake City reported the lowest unemployment rate — 2.0% — in December among the nation’s metro areas with populations larger than 1 million people, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Also, Logan recorded the second-lowest unemployment rate of the nation’s 389 metropolitan areas at 1.7%.

Logan’s rate was exactly half the national average unemployment rate of 3.4%.

Logan was second only to Burlington, Vt., which had a rate of 1.6%. El Centro, Calif., had the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 19.4%.

The news comes two weeks after Utah’s statewide unemployment hit its lowest rate ever at 2.3% — and also led the nation for job creation for 2019, seeing its number of nonfarm jobs increase by 3.1% during that year.

“The job market is humming along at a feverish pace and is absorbing as much labor as possible,” Mark Knold, chief economist at the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said when the state set the jobless record.

“The economy continues adding to multiple years of robust job creation. This dynamic has carried Utah to its lowest recorded unemployment rate,” he added.

The new data said 13,581 people in the Salt Lake City metro area were unemployed but actively seeking work in December. In the Logan metro area, only 1,232 were unemployed and seeking jobs.

The jobless rate in Salt Lake City dipped from 2.3% a year ago to 2.1% in December. In Logan, it dropped from 2.4% to 1.7%.

In other Utah metro areas, the unemployment rate in Provo-Orem was 1.9% (down from 2.6% a year earlier); in Ogden-Clearfield it was 2.0% (down from 2.9% a year earlier); and in St. George, it was 2.4% (down from 3.3% the previous December).

Nationally, unemployment rates in December were lower in 266 of the nation’s 389 metropolitan areas compared to the previous month, higher in 101 and unchanged in 22.

Separate data released Wednesday showed that all of Utah’s metro areas saw increases in the number of jobs created over the past year.

The number of jobs over the year increased by 4.0% in St. George, 3.9% in Ogden-Clearfield, 3.6% in Provo-Orem, 2.6% in the Salt Lake City metro area, and 2.3% in Logan.

The new data comes on the heels of related job and wage reports in recent weeks.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study said that for every three open jobs in Utah, only about two workers are available. That’s the fifth lowest ratio in America.

A local study reported that with a shortage of workers during a time of low employment, the average pay for skilled trade workers in the Salt Lake City area is now $20 an hour.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that Utah has the nation’s fifth lowest rate for labor union membership.