A new analysis by the United States Chamber of Commerce highlights America’s tight labor market and places Utah fifth among states with the lowest ratio of individuals looking for work and actual positions available. According to the report, Utah has less than three workers available for every four open jobs, a situation that if not appropriately addressed can adversely affect the state’s long-term economic growth.
“While we are currently experiencing historically low unemployment rates—well beneath four percent—and lead the nation in terms of employment security for individuals and families, we need to be vigilant about meeting growing employment demands and preparing for the future,” said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance. “With over 80,000 jobs available each month in Utah but only 57,000 prospective employees available to fill them, we need to focus on job training opportunities through our schools, continuing education, as well as vocational and on-the-job apprenticeships. We need to promote lawful and orderly immigration programs, including H1-B visas. And we need to encourage employers and employees, along with community leaders, to lean into our Rural Workforce Network—a partnership between the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah Department of Workforce Services and Economic Development Corporation of Utah that connects employees living in rural Utah with employers along the Wasatch Front.”
According to the U.S. Chamber report, Utah’s 0.70 Worker Availability Ratio (available workers per open position) was the fifth lowest in the nation (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 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 is not seasonally adjusted.
“Utah is known for its innovation,” said Miller. “From agriculture to our tech sector to the research and development coming out of our universities, we have every reason to be optimistic. We have one of the most educated workforces on earth and a quality of life that is attracting more and more potential to our state. The policies and actions we take today must prepare us for the future.”
According to the U.S. Chamber report, 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.
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.