Utah’s Employers Say Finding Qualified Workers is an Obstacle to Growth

New Utah Foundation LogoFinding qualified workers to fill open positions is among the obstacles to growth for employers in Utah, according to a new report from the non-partisan Utah Foundation, Is This the Place? A Survey of Utah Employers.

The report also shows the wages offered for those skilled positions are often below national median levels.

The survey of more than 150 businesses across the state also shows that Utah’s workforce is recognized for its strong work ethic, and that business leaders feel Utah’s government leaders are strongly supportive of business. Newer businesses, though, are more likely to say they believe Utah is not on the right track compared to more established employers.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Based on several questions, 71% of companies reported some level of difficulty finding enough skilled or qualified employees. 32% identified the shortage as the greatest factor impeding their growth, and 30% identified it as the worst quality of Utah’s labor pool.
  • A recent report from the Department of Workforce Services found that 68% of establishments are offering below-median wages for difficult-to-fill positions and 38% are offering wages beneath the 25th percentile, concluding that the shortage of skilled and qualified employees might not rest solely on the qualifications of Utah’s workforce.
  • While Utah’s population has a level of education slightly above average, its labor pool is actually below average. However, 89% of employers with an out-of-state presence indicated that their Utah employees had about the same or better education than their out-of-state employees.
  • One-quarter of respondents recognized Utah’s work ethic as the best quality of its labor force. Only 6% of companies with an out-of-state presence thought their Utah employees were less productive than their out-of-state counterparts and nearly 60% claimed their Utah employees were more productive.
  • 10% of respondents had entered into or implemented a major expansion in Utah’s market in the past 15 years. All of them indicated that given what they know now, were they facing the same choice, they would still come to Utah.
  • 92% of companies think Utah is on the right track. Companies that have existed for fewer than 20 years are 4.5 times more likely to report that they think Utah is on the wrong track when compared to companies that have existed for longer than 20 years.

“We found a lot of our respondents mentioned the difficulty of finding employees for their growth, but in the light of new data from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, wage offerings need to be a part of the conversation as well,” said Utah Foundation Research Analyst Christopher Collard, the author of the report.

One surprising finding of the survey was the education level of Utah workers compared to the general population, Collard said. “While Utah’s population ranks higher than average in education compared to other states, the educational attainment of those participating in the workforce falls below the national average, ranking 35th among the states.”

The report Is This the Place? A Survey of Utah Employers is available on the Utah Foundation website, www.utahfoundation.org. Previous reports going back to 1999 are also available on the site, along with links to news coverage of Utah Foundation research.