Pandemic uncertainty slowing down Utah economic growth, new report shows

Utah's economic growth is slowing down, according to new surveys from the University of Utah's Eccles Economic and Business School.

Utah's economic growth is slowing down, according to new surveys from the University of Utah's Eccles Economic and Business School. (Shutterstock)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are spending less, jobs are seemingly plentiful when skilled workers are not, and the COVID-19 pandemic remains largely unpredictable, which is all contributing to economic slowdown in the Beehive State, according to new data from the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business.

Five hundred Utah households surveyed in August show a predicted 4% spending decrease in the next three months compared to June, according to the school's Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis. Although most businesses still expect steady growth over the year, data from the 1,000 businesses included in the report from August showed a significant slowdown compared to July, likely owing to uncertainty around COVID-19, the delta variant and consumer demand.

The slower spending is mostly a result of e-commerce — electronic and food deliveries to homes — which have been booming throughout the pandemic. Prices increased for food, utilities and entertainment in August, and housing prices are still extraordinarily high.

"The slower spending growth suggests some concern and increased uncertainty about economic growth in the future," write report authors Mac Gaulin, Nathan Seegert and Mu-Jeung Yang, assistant professors at the U.

Businesses also reported a decrease in inflation and a potential "skill gap" in the workforce, meaning companies are struggling to find employees that meet all the requirements and have the skills the employers are seeking. According to the survey data, businesses are generally seeing job candidates who have 80% of the skills they are looking for, and the companies would be more likely to hire more employees if they found matches with more skills.

While businesses are not quite satisfied with applicants, employees and applicants alike are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with employers. The U.S. has seen an unprecedented number of employees quit their jobs, as well as not applying to low-paying positions. There has been a shortage of nurses, teachers, veterinarians, bus drivers, psychologists and other positions in many industries.

And these shortages are only likely to increase in the future, according to the Utah report. A large minority of 28% of respondents stated they are at least somewhat likely to quit their jobs in the next three months because of low pay or better opportunities elsewhere.

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Jenny Rollins is a freelance journalist based in Utah and a former reporter. She has a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University and a master's degree in journalism from Boston University.


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