Utah Economy, Booming Population Growth, But Labor Market Still Struggling | News, Sports, Jobs

Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner

Thirty new townhouses and a building housing two or three restaurants are coming to the Riverbend area north of Park Boulevard in Ogden. The area is shown here on Friday, February 12, 2021.

OGDEN — Long-term labor replacement is a real concern for local economists. At the Northern Utah Business Economic Forecast event on Tuesday at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center, Natalie Gochnour provided her perspective on Utah’s economy, including housing and labor markets. Gochnour is an economist at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

Nearly 30,000 jobs have been posted online in the past six months, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “We don’t have enough bodies,” said UDWS senior economist Michael Jeanfreau.

With Utah’s population growth rate leading the nation at 18.4% over the past decade, there’s no shortage of people. There is just a shortage of working people.

Economists say factors contributing to labor shortages are the ‘great reshuffle’ where people quit their jobs in search of better opportunities, and the ‘great quit’ where an abundance of baby boomers retire of the working population.

For Gouchnour, the biggest challenge affecting the labor market is the decline of the immigrant workforce – a workforce, she said, on which the country has always depended.

According to the UDWS, an influx of workers is coming to Utah from California and Texas to fill the job market while the rest of the country is still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeanfreau said the majority of hiring right now isn’t necessarily coming from the unemployment pool, which is at an all-time high. Most of them will be employees changing jobs.

The drop in immigration, the “Great Resignation”, those affected by COVID-19 because of schooling or illness, and people who decided to return to school after mass layoffs at the start of the pandemic have all contributed to the labor shortage, Gochnour added. .

Utah has also gained 50,000 additional jobs since before COVID-19.

“It’s not the recovery, we’ve gained a lot of jobs,” Jeanfreau said, acknowledging the struggle to fill them.

As for solving the labor shortage, Jeanfreau said the market will eventually balance out, saying, “That’s the beautiful thing about the economy.”

Historically, people have been tied to urban employment centers, such as Salt Lake City. People moving in and out of Salt Lake for work place a heavy strain on infrastructure. Jeanfreau said there is a real need for employers to embrace telecommuting, which could also have a positive effect on the housing market.

Keeping abreast of infrastructure and affordable housing are two potential barriers that Jeanfreau mentioned.

According to data collected by the National Association of Home Builders, housing affordability in Ogden and Clearfield remained well above other cities in Utah, as well as the nation, from 2012 to 2021 at 63.9%.

Gochnour said that although there are inevitable structural problems, such as an aging population, the labor shortage will pass over time. The most immediate remedy, however, is to offer more money.


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