SALT LAKE CITY — Even with the economic ups and downs of the coronavirus pandemic, the Beehive State has managed to recover better than most thanks in large part to local employers’ ability to rehire and bring on new workers.
Utah currently boasts the second-lowest jobless rate in the nation at 4.1%, just barely behind Nebraska at 4.0% for the latest monthly period.
That economic recovery has been buoyed by employers executing plans to hire more talent. This week, Boston-based Fidelity Investments announced the company will be hiring hundreds of employees in Utah over the next six months. These positions are part of 4,000 new, client-facing roles in the United States to meet customer demand and growth, said spokeswoman Janelle O’Haugherty.
The company attributed the expansion to recent market volatility and an increasingly complex economic environment driving millions of existing and new customers to open accounts, a news release stated. The growth and engagement has pushed the company to make a 15% increase in the number of client-facing associates by the end of 2020.
“As Utahns continue to navigate this uncertain time, it’s good to see companies like Fidelity Investments planning to add some 325 new, good-paying jobs over the next six months in the state,” said Theresa Foxley, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. “This latest round of hiring signifies the resilience and talent available in Utah’s economy, which remains among the strongest in the country.”
The company will be hiring for positions as financial advisors, licensed representatives and customer service representatives. The news follows other recent pledges by large-scale employers to increase their ranks in Utah.
Global package deliverer United Parcel Service — UPS — is hiring 2,200 people in Utah to work this holiday season. The company is adding semitrailer and package car drivers, which start at $21 per hour, while pay for package handlers and driver-helpers will start at $14.50 per hour, a release stated.
Also in October, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced that digital marketing firm Quotient Technology Inc. will expand to Utah, creating up to 520 new jobs over the next 10 years.
In August, aerospace and defense contractor Northrup Grumman announced the company aims to fill more than 600 positions. The company currently employs 91,000 people worldwide, with over 5,100 already in Utah.
“We’re on track to actually add a lot more over the next few months, and that trend is expected to continue over the next few years,” said Katie Qian, director of Air Force programs at Northrop Grumman. “Being a technical company, we are looking for lots of engineers, but on top of that, just all sorts of positions. Everything from entry-level technicians and engineers to experienced managers to contracts and finance, administration — all kinds of positions as part of the immense growth that we’re experiencing right now.”
She said the companywide expansion is fueled by new projects that are now under contract.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported this month that August’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment data showed approximately 66,100 Utahns as jobless. The national unemployment rate fell from 10.2% in July to 8.4% for August.
“Utah’s economy continues along its path of improvement. The unemployment rate dropped again and remains one of the nation’s lowest,” said Department of Workforce Services chief economist Mark Knold. “While the overall pace of job re-engagement is unchanged from July, there was an underlying employment improvement in the private sector, which is the Utah economy’s foundational and market-driven component. It speaks to the energy and prospects within the Utah economy.”
The state’s ability to regain some of the employment losses brought on by the global pandemic is a sign of the economic resiliency Utah is fortunate to have, said Andrew Keinsley, assistant professor of economics at Weber State University.
“I would say it partially has to do with the education level that we have. We’re seeing the biggest brunt of all of this is at the lower educated levels — people who are working more in the services industry. We still have a pretty big manufacturing sector here in the state where they’ve kind of been ramping back up.”
He added that the recovery can also be attributed to where the state started out before the pandemic — “in a really, really good place that was better than the national average.”
“There was less dependence on services. We have a lot of small businesses, but we have a lot of very large employers that deal with higher educated workers who can work from home if they have to so they can weather that particular kind of storm,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes from here on out. We’re starting to see more on the national level that some larger companies are starting to introduce more layoffs, so we’ll see if this lasts. But so far, so good.”