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SALT LAKE CITY — Job growth in Utah is outpacing its historic average by 25 percent, a new report stated.
The employment summary from the Utah Department of Workforce Services for February showed year-over-year growth for new jobs at 4.2 percent, compared with the state’s long-term average of 3.1 percent.
For the month, Utah’s nonfarm payroll employment for last month added an estimated 55,100 jobs to the economy as compared with February 2014. The state’s current employment level registered at 1.36 million, while 49,400 Utahns were still seeking to find gainful employment.
Utah’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate held steady from last month, measuring 3.4 percent. Nationally, the U.S. unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percent to 5.5 percent for the month.
“Maintaining high job growth and low unemployment shows that Utah still has excess labor supply from which to fill new positions,” said DWS chief economist Carrie Mayne. “The labor market is expected to eventually tighten, but for now expansion comes with little upward pressure on wages.”
Mayne said pay in Utah has generally kept up with inflation at about 1 percent annually.
“Job growth is remaining at a really high level,” she said. “Wage growth, at some point, is going to improve.”
Mayne said that nine of the 10 private sector industry groups measured in the report posted net year-over-year job increases in February, while natural resources and mining showed a contraction of 1.7 percent.
The largest private sector employment increases were in trade, transportation and utilities, which added 13,200 jobs; professional and business services, up 9,400 jobs; and leisure and hospitality, which added 8,000 new positions.
Recent BYU graduate Shannon Crandall, a guest host at the Hyatt House Salt Lake City/Downtown, was among those who were able to find a position in the field after just a few months out of school.
Crandall said she was well-aware of the expansion in the leisure sector during her search.
“I looked into hospitality before graduating and saw that it was a growing industry, and that encouraged me to go in that (career) direction, definitely,” she said.
Meanwhile, the fastest employment growth was in the construction sector, which climbed 9.4 percent year-over-year, with leisure and hospitality increasing 6.4 percent, and information rising 5.5 percent for the 12-month period.
Maintaining high job growth and low unemployment shows that Utah still has excess labor supply from which to fill new positions. The labor market is expected to eventually tighten, but for now expansion comes with little upward pressure on wages.
–Carrie Mayne, DWS chief economist
Along the Wasatch Front, several new hotels have been constructed and opened to guests in the past several months, including three properties near the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Gabe Hansen, Hyatt House assistant general manager, said conventions continuing to choose Utah’s capital city as a destination events have fueled much of the development.
“There is such a demand for rooms,” Hansen said. “The trend is Tuesdays through Fridays are usually pretty busy, with a lot of business travelers (coming) into town, and then Friday and Saturday we have our families.”
He also noted that an increasing number of families are choosing to visit downtown from relatively close by to attend events or enjoy a "stay-cation.”
“These are people coming in from Layton or Provo, coming up to enjoy the city,” Hansen said. “Families just come up to get out of (their) town for the weekend to go swimming or do something with the kids instead of just sitting around the house. (That) is really attractive to a lot of families,” Hansen said.
Based on the upbeat jobs news, Gov. Gary Herbert said the department's report demonstrated that Utahns are continuing to enter the workforce, secure employment and strengthen the state’s economy.
“Utah’s economy is the envy of the nation,” Herbert said. “It is great to see the private sector put more and more Utahns to work so they can move toward a more prosperous future.”