Utah sees lowest unemployment rate in U.S. during COVID-19

While states across the country are dealing with economic decline and a rise in unemployment, Utah is one of the few states with a steadily improving economy throughout the pandemic with an unemployment rate of 4.5%.

According to a 2020 Economic Summary from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, while not unscathed, Utah’s economy has fared much better than other states, particularly concerning unemployment rates and personal income gain.

 

 

Utah’s overall unemployment rate is 4.5% as of July 2020 after a peak rate of 9.7% in April, while the national unemployment rate is 10.2%.

Natalie Gochnour, Director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, said Utah’s unemployment rate is better than originally anticipated when the COVID-19 pandemic first began.

“In our state, state leaders had set a target to reach a 4.5% unemployment rate by the end of the year,” she said. “Then we ended up meeting it in July, so we’re sort of ahead of our forecast.”

Unemployment rates for specific counties varied, with some counties faring better than others. 

Juab County has the lowest unemployment rate in Utah at 3.1%, while Garfield County currently has an unemployment rate of 11.5%.

“We have an economy in Utah that has definitely been impacted by COVID-19, but our economy currently is performing among the best of any state,” Gochnour said. 

Personal income for Utah residents also saw a gain in the first quarter of 2020, rising 4.3% from 2019’s first quarter to $160 billion.

Gochnour said personal income matters because it shows how Utah’s average wages have been increasing throughout the year.

“Personal income is a very broad measure of what’s going on in the economy, and it can give an indication of the types of jobs that are being created,” she said. 

With the loss of tourism and hospitality jobs, she said, more higher-paying jobs in other industries around Utah have increased the average wage residents are taking home.

Overall job numbers have also remained similar to Utah’s 2019 rate, which saw 1.56 million total jobs. Current job totals for Utah are at 1.52 million as of July 2020 despite job losses at the beginning of the year.

For nonagricultural employment, Utah’s job numbers decreased by 1.8%, or about 27,000 jobs, while nationally jobs declined about  7.7% or 11.6 million jobs. 

She said this in large part is due to increased job numbers in industries like construction that have helped to reduce the previous job losses the state was seeing.

Gochnour said part of the reason for Utah’s economy faring so well during the pandemic is the diversity of the economy itself. 

“Utah’s economy is a very well-diversified economy,” she said. “Being in the center of the interior western United States… we are headquarters for distribution and warehousing, we’re headquarters for financial services, we’re headquarters for health care, we’re a very beautiful state so we have a very active tourism industry. The end result is if you measure economic diversity, Utah comes out as one of the most economically diverse states in the country.”

More information on Utah’s economic status during COVID-19 can be found here.