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SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to the current state of the economy, it turns out Utahns are far more optimistic about what's happening in their home state versus the rest of the country.
But opinions are almost evenly split on how well the local economy is actually performing.
A new statewide Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found 48% of respondents believe Utah's economy is functioning at a "good" or "excellent" level, while only 20% feel the overall U.S economy is in "good" or "excellent" shape.
And while 78% rated the condition of the nation's economy as "fair" or "poor," 50% see Utah's economic climate as "fair" or "poor."
The survey was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from Feb. 7-17 of 808 registered Utah voters. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.45 percentage points.
Younger Utahns tended to be more pessimistic about the national economy than older residents, with a whopping 92% of poll respondents age 18 to 24 rating it "fair" or "poor." Younger residents also were of like mind regarding the Utah economy as 78% in that age group called it "fair" or "poor."
Just over half of both Democrats and Republicans in the survey see the Utah economy as "excellent" or "good," but Republicans were less bullish on the national economy than Democrats.
Phil Dean, public finance senior research fellow at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, said Utah's economy is outperforming most of the country, a likely driver behind the poll participants' sunnier disposition when it came to the local economy.
"I think it's well-founded optimism for the Utah economy," Dean said. "We still have numerous challenges, and growth is a big one, but there's a lot to be positive about."
Utah is continuing to lead the nation in job growth coming out of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vast majority of the state's business sectors are fully recovered and in growth mode in terms of jobs, he said.
Dean also noted that even though Deseret News poll data showed better positivity from respondents about Utah's economy over the rest of the U.S., a majority still weighed in on the "fair" or "poor" ratings and believes record-high inflation is being felt by all Utahns.
"Every day, people see in their own jobs and personal finances what's happening and they feel reasonably good about it," Dean said. "But inflation is hitting us broadly in housing, groceries and at the gas pumps."
A report released last week by the Salt Lake Chamber noted Utah's December two-year job growth of 3.7% was the highest in the nation and one of only four states showing positive job change. And, the state hit 1.9% unemployment, the lowest ever recorded for the state and currently second lowest in the nation.
Chamber President and CEO Derek Miller said inflation pressures were impacting the state's business community as well, but continued growth across industries would help bolster the state's economy moving forward.
"Utah's economic engine continues to expand, reaching near our employment limits," Miller said in a statement last week. "Executive confidence has slipped with the broader concerns of persistent inflation and hampered supply chains. Notwithstanding these challenges, Utah's growth leads the nation with construction, business services, trade and transportation pushing our economy upwards."
Natalie Gochnour, director of the Gardner Policy Institute, also saw the new chamber data as evidence of a necessary, though not necessarily negative recalibration of the state's economy.
"The economic dashboard shows our state is not only leading the nation in key areas, but also redlining our growth potential," Gochnour said in a statement. "The economy is reaching its current limit, with unemployment hitting all-time lows at under 2% and workforce shortages capping off our ability to grow.
"This healthy rebalancing within the economy — as people continue to rejoin the labor force and industry sectors recalibrate — are positive signs overall. Larger concerns with supply chains, persistent inflation, and pandemic-related challenges are still impacting Utah, but to a lesser extent than other states. I am optimistic that we will continue to adjust and lead the nation as we exit the pandemic."