There are fewer than three available workers for every four open jobs in Utah, the 5th lowest ratio of job seekers to open positions in the United States, according to new analysis published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The data reveal a historically tight labor market for employers and a mounting threat to the state’s long-term growth.
On average, there were 81,333 jobs available per month in Utah during the 12-month period ending June 2019—the latest month for which state-level data is available—but only a monthly average of 57,071 available workers to fill them. The state’s 0.70 Worker Availability Ratio (available workers per open position) was the 5th lowest in the nation during that period (North Dakota had the lowest WAR at 0.51). Utah’s labor market is 14.2 percent tighter than the year prior and 85.2 percent tighter than it was a decade ago, the analysis shows.
“The data illuminate an important but overshadowed gap in the workforce,” said Neil Bradley, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer. “While much attention has rightfully been given to the skills gap—that is, that too many people lack the skills they need to compete for jobs in today’s economy—our nation also faces a growing people gap. In other words, there simply are too few workers to meet employer demand. This lack of workers is holding back economic growth as it becomes harder for existing firms to meet demand and new businesses to open.”
The state’s monthly available workers figure represents all “active” job seekers in a given month, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as those classified as “marginally attached.” Marginally attached individuals are those who want a job and are available to work but have not looked for work in the most recent month. Data are not seasonally adjusted.
“Available workers vary in terms of experience, skills, and location, so they may not match the occupational, skill, location, and other needs associated with job openings,” said Ron Bird, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Economist. “This ‘mismatch’ problem is magnified when the Worker Availability is low, posing a potentially significant barrier to hiring and growth for Utah businesses.”
Utah is hardly alone in grappling with this challenge. Nationally, the Worker Availability Ratio dropped to 0.88 available workers per open job in October, the most recent month for which data is available, down from 0.95 in September and marking the lowest reading in nearly 20 years of available data. The U.S. Worker Availability Ratio has fallen steadily from a record high of 7.99 in December 2010 and has averaged 2.84, or about three workers per job opening, since 2001.
“Employers attempting to fill open positions today are operating in a labor market that’s nearly three times tighter than it has been on average over the last 20 years and eight times tighter than it was a decade ago, Bird added.
There were 7.63 million job openings in the U.S. in October compared to 6.74 million available workers.
During the 12-month period ending in June 2019, no state had more than 1.5 workers available for every open job. One in five states (10) had Worker Availability Ratios of less than 0.75, meaning there were less than three individuals available to work for every four open positions.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation are working to close both the skills gap and the people gap in the American workforce in numerous ways, including education and talent development partnership programs, immigration and labor policy research and advocacy, and other programs intended to grow the U.S. workforce.