Utah has consistently been recognized by thought leaders and publications as one of the best states for business. This is because in Utah, we let the market drive innovation.
In 2019, Utah’s economy continued to prosper as in years past. While the entire nation experienced a fruitful period of expansion over the past decade, Utah was among the leaders with an annual job growth rate of 3 percent. During this time, Utah was able to add over 45,000 new jobs to the economy.
New jobs and a high growth rate were also paired with GDP expansion for the state. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Utah posted a GDP growth rate of 3.4 percent—one of the highest in the nation according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Overall in 2019, Utah was the third fastest growing economy in the country, sitting at 3.8 percent. Professional, scientific, and technical services were the leading sector of growth in the state, and Utah was rated as one of the most diverse economies in America.
Strong economic expansion additionally played a role in low unemployment numbers. Through 2019, Utah posted an enviable unemployment rate of 2.7 percent, nearly a full percentage point lower than unemployment numbers across the United States.
Utah’s population also expanded by 53,000 in 2019 as many migrated to the state to take part in robust economic opportunities.
Understandably, these data have been thrown into flux with the onset of COVID-19. As businesses and economies across the globe have decreased activity, forecasts for growth are being replaced with predictions of recession. However, despite many states struggling to manage through this time, Utah’s strength as an economic powerhouse will keep us poised to return stronger than ever before. Even throughout the turmoil, Utah’s unemployment numbers are consistently lower than the rest of the country.
To help Utah manage the economic ramifications of the pandemic, Governor Herbert and other state leaders have created the “Utah Leads Together” plan. One of the most comprehensive economic recovery plans in the country, Utah Leads Together has provided a roadmap to help the state overcome new challenges presented by COVID-19. Under the first version of the plan, the state transitioned from a period of economic urgency to stabilization in just five weeks, well ahead of the initial eight to 12-week estimate. Now, as more Utah cities and counties begin to adapt and make progress, the latest version of Utah Leads Together aims to begin planting the seeds of economic recovery.
This involves a smart framework of how industries can build upon Utah’s strong foundation to help drive future growth, improve Utahns quality of life, and launch the state into a period of further success.
Even with economic uncertainty moving forward, Governor Herbert is confident that Utah will continue to lead out on economic recovery. Thanks to strong leadership and innovation, Utah is quickly moving from being the “Crossroads of the West” to the “Crossroads of the World.”
Data on Utah’s Economic Outlook
Economic Report to the Governor
COVID-19 Job Impacts
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What fields have seen the most substantial job growth in the state?
A: The fastest employment growth (according to most recent numbers for November 2018) occurred in Trade, Transportation, and Utilities with a growth rate of 5.1 percent, Manufacturing increased by 4 percent, and Other Services by 3.8 percent.
Q: With an increase in both business expansion and population, what will roads and infrastructure development look like?
A: Utah is expanding rapidly. With Utah’s projected population growth, the governor recognizes it is time to prepare a robust infrastructure and transportation system that includes funding for bridges, mass transit, and other modes of transportation. By 2022, the first phase of the West Davis Corridor will be complete and will allow for easier commutes. In Southern Utah, UDOT is exploring the implementation of new routes from Springdale to St. George. It is important to understand that while we are expanding roads and infrastructure to accommodate for the increase in population and businesses, we have placed a greater emphasis on expanding environmentally friendly ways of transportation – mass transit. This is a major reason why Governor Herbert supported S.B. 136 a bill that opened up state transportation funds for public transit investments, like more light rail and electric buses, trolleys.
Q: Is Utah’s job growth sustainable?
A: Utah is experiencing phenomenal growth right now. Because of our astronomical growth, we are forced to adapt to changing circumstances and environments. This includes infrastructure developments, housing developments, and much more. Utah’s job growth tops the nation. We have a diverse economy with strong aerospace, technology, life sciences, financial services, energy, and outdoor recreation sectors. In many of our sectors, we have more jobs available than we have people to fill them. We believe in the strength of our diverse economy and a free market. Should corrections occur, they are likely necessary for the cycle of growth to continue. As for now, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced in early 2018 post-performance tax incentives for new job creation. Utah continues to be an attractive place for companies to expand in, as was recently demonstrated by Facebook’s announcement of their intent to construct a new Data Center in Eagle Mountain, bringing more jobs and business to Utah.
Q: With a booming economy, can people who work in Utah expect to see an increase in wages?
A: The average wage in Utah grew by 5.3 percent in 2017. This increase benefits Utah’s working men and women, and we look forward to the continuous rise in wage growth.
Q: Is Utah in danger of experiencing a 2008-like recession again?
A: The recession in 2008 affected Americans in ways many had never experienced before. However, Governor Herbert set the ambitious goal of creating 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days making Utah the strongest economy in the nation. The Herbert administration exceeded that goal by adding an additional 12,000 jobs. During the recession, Utah proudly became a home to major companies such as Boeing, Proctor & Gamble, Adobe, Goldman Sachs, and Disney while companies already in the state such as Vivint, IMFlash, Qualtrics, and Lifetime Products continued to expand. As a result of business expansion in the state, Utah has become the most diverse economy in the nation, which should help us weather any potential future economic downturns. In preparation for the possibility of another major recession, the state of Utah has been adding funds to a “rainy day fund” on an annual basis. This fund has become a national benchmark for other states, and Utah is poised to weather any economic storm.
Q: What does the state plan to do to have affordable housing for those moving into the state and for those currently calling Utah home?
A: While government plays a role in economic shifts and policy, it is firmly believed in the Herbert Administration that this role should be limited. The free market will determine its own fate and, currently, the market is recognizing that Utah is a highly-desirable place to live. Because of Utah’s low unemployment rate, nation-topping job growth, and relative low cost of living (among a host of other positive traits), Utah is considered, by many, a highly desirable home.
Our surging population growth has presented the construction and home-building industries the gargantuan task of meeting housing demands. As supply dwindles and demand increases, housing costs will also increase, thus creating a sellers market. This, naturally, creates an affordable housing drought. There are many ways this issue can and should be addressed. If housing supplies increase at the appropriate rate, balance will be restored. If wages and income continue to increase (as they have been), housing will become more affordable. Even though the market is primarily responsible for addressing these shifts, Governor Herbert is working to determine state-based counter measures to the issue of affordability.
Since the spring of 2016, a special task force led by Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox has been in place to address the increased housing needs of Utah residents and to make housing affordable for Utah’s families. While they continue to explore this issue, they have determined that government can play an important role through zoning, infrastructure development, and incentivizing the development of greater housing options (including high-density options).
Q: What is the wage gap for men and women earners in the state of Utah?
A: Across the nation, we have seen that women typically earn less than men for equal work. This is true in Utah as well, and it is completely unacceptable. Numerous studies have been conducted on this issue, and rightfully so. To remedy the problem, the root causes must be understood, and this is certainly a complex problem steeped in gender inequality that has existed for centuries. Nationally, the unadjusted gender pay gay is approximately 24 percent (According to Glassdoor Economic Research). However, when specific controls are applied (age, education, years of experience, industry, occupation, region, company, and job title) the gap significantly decreases to approximately 5.4 percent. This number is arguably more representative because it sheds light on how many factors influence the gap in income equality. Of course, even this number is far too high.
In Utah, many of the factors that influence the pay gap are exacerbated by certain cultural influences. For instance, Utah is a family-friendly state. With the highest fertility rates in the nation, and large families being common in our state, many women choose to take long-hiatuses from work to stay home and raise their families. This will often have an adverse effect on the successes of persons (men and women) returning to the workforce. This is an issue of perception. Similarly, traditionally women-dominated professions are compensated lower than male-dominated professions, consider pay differences between teachers and software engineers and you’ll understand what that means. This begs the question, “Are women choosing lower-paying jobs for non-compensation-based reasons, or are women-dominated positions compensated at lower rates due to perceptions and ideologies rooted in sexism?”
It is important we continue to ask these questions so we can solve this issue. We must continue to listen to diverse perspectives and rely on data so that we accurately address the problem at hand. In 2012, Governor Herbert launched a commission dedicated to closing the gender pay gap in the state of Utah. Governor Herbert believes women are just as capable as men. He also believes in practicing what you preach, which is why numerous women hold cabinet level positions in his administration.