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Utah’s job outlook gets brighter: unemployment rate 3%

A Help Wanted sign is posted at a Designer Eyes store at Brickell City Centre, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Miami. The number of people applying for unemployment aid jumped last week to 853,000, the most since September, evidence that some companies are cutting more jobs as new virus cases spiral higher. The Labor Department said Thursday, Dec. 10, that the number of applications increased from 716,000 the previous week. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

SALT LAKE CITY — The good news in Utah is that the job outlook is getting brighter as the state and the nation climb their way out of the darkness of the yearlong+ pandemic.

Nate McDonald, deputy director at Utah Department of Workforce Services, joins Tim and Amanda on “Utah’s Morning News” to talk about the brightening jobs picture.

Job numbers

McDonald highlighted the following rates:

February 2021 Unemployment Rates:
State of Utah: 3.0%
United States: 6.2%

Employment Year Over % Change:
State of Utah: -0.0%
United States: -6.0%

“This is the first month that we are at net zero, meaning that in February this year we regained all the jobs that we had in February last year,” McDonald said. “We have neutralized the job losses from the pandemic and that’s great news.”

He said Utah and Idaho are the only states that have neutralized the job losses from the pandemic.

“[To] put that in perspective, it took five years to neutralize the job losses from the Great Recession, so we are doing very well compared to the rest of the nation,” he added.

McDonald said economists are also keeping an eye on the level of job participation in Utah.

“Right now, we estimate about 68.5% is where we want to be with our labor force participating, meaning they’re actively engaged in either working or looking for work,” he said. “Right now, we’re about 67%, and that difference is anywhere from like 20 to 30,000 people that are on the sidelines, either discouraged or are not willing to participate [in the workforce] right now.”

Job outlook

McDonald said he expects that number to pick up going into summer.

McDonald also expects the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden to help industries still struggling in the state.

“We really hope to see some of those industries starting to rebound. . . . jobs where people gather for events [concerts, ballgames, etc.], travel, tourism. We’re going to see our numbers even get better and better,” he said. 

Related:

Utah ranked #1 for job growth, lowest unemployment rate