Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Economic Hurdles in Rural Utah

by Mark Knold

Utah is a geographically large state. Based on total area, it is the 13th largest state, implying there is room to spread out. Despite all this space, Utah’s population distribution is quite concentrated. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Utah is the nation’s 9th most urbanized state. This dichotomy has shaped a state with two economic profiles — one urban, one rural. It can be challenging for a state dominated and prospering within the urban to extend its economic bounty to the betterment of the rural.

What is rural? It depends upon one’s objective behind the question. Most define rural by a visual scan of the landscape. A lot of open land and not many people — rural. Yet economically, the view can be different. An area may look rural, but if the economic vitality of its populace is strongly integrated with a nearby urban area, then this creates a different perspective. The latter is a preference of the federal government — an entity that often makes allocation or distribution decisions based upon economic factors.

No matter how one technically defines rural, the Governor’s Office recognizes a recent dichotomy in Utah’s economic prosperity. Since the Great Recession, Utah has had compelling economic success. Yet, most of this is concentrated in Utah’s urban centers. Portions of Utah’s rural communities are not seeing matching levels of success. Utah’s Lt. Governor recently observed, “Not all of Utah’s communities are full participants in this economic success. Many counties off the Wasatch Front are experiencing challenges.”

In response to this economic disparity, the Governor’s Office has launched the 25k Jobs initiative — an effort for businesses to create 25,000 new jobs in 25 Utah counties by 2020. With this spotlight on rural Utah’s economics, let’s take a look at some of these rural challenges.

To most, jobs deliver their income and means for living sustenance. Therefore, employment, and peripheral variables associated with employment, becomes the strongest proxy for measuring the Utah economy’s health. We will look at Utah’s counties through the lens of employment, unemployment, the labor force and how the industry structure speaks to the underlying performance of these variables.

A profile of job growth becomes a starting point. Economic performance needs to be viewed with a somewhat long lens. The Governor’s 25k Jobs initiative was not born from a short-term disorder, but instead is recognition of weak longer-term fundamentals. To illustrate this perspective, one needs to backdrop the short-term mechanics against the longer-term dynamics.

The County Job Profile chart is an intersection of the short-term trend with the moderate-term. Each county is a bubble, and the bubble size reflects job counts. The chart is divided into four quadrants. The quadrants tell the story of the intersection of the short and moderate-term trends (growth or contraction) and the general health of the county’s economy.

There are two axes of measure. First, the vertical axis represents the short-term. It is the percentage of county job change between 2015 and 2016. Above the horizontal axis is growth — below is contraction.

Second, the horizontal axis measures the moderate-term. It is the percentage of job change over the past five years (2011-2016). To the right of the vertical axis is growth — to the left is contraction. Where a bubble lies is the intersection of the short and the moderate term.

To illustrate, find Beaver County on the chart. Beaver aligns with around -4.0 percent on the vertical axis, and 8.0 percent on the horizontal axis. This says that over the past five years, Beaver County’s job count has grown by 8.0 percent, but over the past year it has contracted by around 4.0 percent. This implies that Beaver County’s economy may be slipping a bit. A one-year view would imply a problem. A longer-term view places this short-term setback against a broader perspective of overall prosperity.

The quadrant of concern is the Contracting quadrant. These economies have contracted over both the most recent year and the past five years. No matter how one wants to define rural as outlined above, all of these contracting counties identify as rural.

In-county jobs alone are not the complete picture. For example, a large percentage of Morgan County’s residents commute to Weber or Davis counties for work. If jobs are not being germinated in Morgan County, the county and its population can still prosper from its ties with the urban area.

An additional way to look at the economy is through the lens of the labor force. The labor force consists of those 16-years and older who are either working or looking for work. It is based upon where people live, not where they work. A worker living in Morgan County will be represented in Morgan County on the following chart (County Labor Force Change); yet, if they work in Weber County, their job is represented in Weber County on the prior chart. Adding this perspective helps to round out a county’s profile.

The structure of the County Labor Force Change graphic is the same as the prior chart. The area of vibrancy is the upper-right quadrant where the labor force is increasing. The quadrant of labor force contraction is the lower left. A decline in the labor force occurs when people become discouraged and leave the labor force — yet stay in the county, or when people leave the county altogether. Either way, a decline in the labor force signals a fundamental negative in the economic trend.

Depending upon the variables measured, a gain in one and a decline in another can both be positive. Job growth and an unemployment decline are both positive. To associate the positive with low unemployment, the quadrant message on the Unemployment Rate chart has been transposed.

Every month an unemployment rate is calculated for Utah and each of its counties. A county’s unemployment rate can be measured against the Utah statewide average unemployment rate. In the following graphic, county rates are mathematically compared against the statewide rate (seasonally adjusted), recorded and then summed across time.

For example, if a county’s unemployment rate is 5.5 percent and the statewide rate is 4.0 percent, then that county’s difference for that month is 1.5. If a county’s rate were to be 3.5 percent against the statewide rate of 4.0 percent, then the difference is -0.5. These monthly differences are tallied and summed. A high score speaks to a consistent and persistent unemployment rate above the statewide average. In other words, these are counties with a continuous environment of high unemployment.

The horizontal axis is a measure since 2000 and the vertical axis a measure since the beginning of the Great Recession (2008). The axis intersection is not at zero to isolate the “concern area” within the upper right quadrant. The statewide average is consistently close to the Salt Lake County average, so a sizeable number of counties will have sums slightly above the statewide average; yet, this doesn’t imply an unemployment problem. But the non-zero intersection is utilized to emphasize the counties that do have an outstanding unemployment disparity.

Across these various charts, a common group of rural counties emerge in the weak quadrant. These include Carbon, Emery, Garfield, Piute and San Juan counties; with Duchesne and Uintah hanging on the edge. There is a common theme that surrounds this grouping and it centers upon low economic diversity.

An economy’s ability to be consistently positive has a strong foundation in a diverse mix of industrial employment. Think of it in terms of “not putting all your eggs in one basket.” Economic diversity is spreading jobs across many baskets. Diversity is desirable because the overall economy is not dominantly influenced by one or a handful of industries whose poor performance weighs upon the whole.

A Hachman Index is an evaluation tool measuring to what degree an economy may or may not have all its eggs in one basket. In the Hachman Index, a measure of 1.0 means your eggs are well distributed across many industries. Conversely, numbers approaching zero point to a high concentration in one or a handful of industries.

Many of the counties that score low on the previous charts are the same ones on the lowest tier of the following Hachman Index chart. This chart represents the placement of economic diversity upon employment change of the past five years. A county will be placed high or low (vertical axis) on the chart depending upon its Hachman Index score. It will align right or left (horizontal axis) depending upon its five-year employment change. Metropolitan counties have higher economic diversity than rural counties — placing them higher on the chart. They are also further to the right on the chart, showing stronger employment growth. There can be individual exceptions, but the general theme is that lack of economic diversity is a foundational impediment to economic viability. Industrial diversity, though difficult to artificially induce, is a desired remedy to counter sluggish economic performance.

Lack of diversity does not mandate a poor economy. A reproduction of this chart five years ago would have placed Uintah and Duchesne counties still low on the chart, but their five-year growth rates would have been off the chart, needing arrows to point out beyond the chosen 40 percent horizontal axis limit.

Those economies are dominated by energy production. When energy prices are high, their economies can soar. When energy falters, they often do likewise. They are striking examples of economic outcome being determined by a dominant industry.

In summary, there is a dichotomy within the Utah economy between urban and rural. The urban economies are diverse and, therefore, more economically balanced; while many rural economies are not. With some rural counties the economic distinction is not a wide divide; but in the rural counties where the divide is pronounced, the underlying theme is often a low level of economic performance.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Utah's Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rates

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for all Utah counties have been posted online here.

Each month, these rates are posted the Monday following the Unemployment Rate Update for Utah.

For more information about seasonally adjusted rates, read a DWS analysis here.

Next update scheduled for November 20th.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Utah's Employment Situation for September 2017

Utah's Employment Situation for September 2017 has been released on the web.

Find the Current Economic Situation in its entirety here.

For charts and tables, including County Employment, go to the Employment and Unemployment page.

Next update scheduled for November 17th, 2017.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The New Retail Workforce:
How Online Sales are Changing Retail Jobs in Northern Utah.

Consumer spending makes up around 68 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Consumer spending is individuals and families purchasing groceries, clothing, recreation, stocks, insurance, education and much more. The transactions cover a broad swath of economic activity.

Much of the nation’s consumer spending is captured via retail trade. A useful retail trade definition is “the re-sale (sale without transformation) of new and used goods to the general public, for personal or household consumption or utilization.” Not all consumer spending is captured through retail trade transactions, but a large share is.

Broad-category examples of retail trade sectors are motor vehicle sales, furniture stores, electronic stores, building material stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, clothing stores and department stores, among others.

Then there is the relatively new and emerging part of the retail trade sphere — non-store retailers. These are establishments that sell products on the Internet. Examples include Amazon, Zappos,, or eBay. These types of retailers have grown rapidly in the past 15 years and their presence is reshaping the retail trade landscape.

Whereas in the past nearly all retail transactions were done through traditional brick-and-mortar stores, now a significant and growing segment is diverted to internet sales. The consumer shops online and FedEx (or like) delivers the product. One can see that the number of brick-and-mortar stores and the level of local sales across the country are being endangered by this economic evolution.

The brick-and-mortar reduction is beginning to show its economic presence in the United States employment numbers. While the U.S. economy is finally expanding at a healthy pace this side of the Great Recession, one of the few industries not rising with this tide is retail trade. While overall retail sales are increasing, employment is not.

Traditionally, as a population increases, retail trade employment grows simultaneously, since population growth and consumer spending volume is an integrated dynamic. If studied deeply, a certain ratio of retail trade employment growth spawned from population growth would emerge.  Before the internet, the vast majority of all consumer sales occurred in the immediate community or region. But now, the internet is diverting these sales away from the local community — and with internet sales growing, its market share will increase.

We do not yet know how much brick-and-mortar erosion will eventually occur. And will such a phenomenon hit some areas more than others (e.g., urban vs. rural, or local vs. tourist spending)? These are touch points that economists will be watching as this internet sales phenomenon continues to grow within the national and Utah economies.

In light of this change, in this quarter’s Local Insights we are profiling retail trade employment throughout Utah’s local regions. This can offer a profile of where retail trade is now in a local economy, and possibly how much of the sector could become vulnerable to the internet-sales phenomenon.

All regions can be viewed through the Local Insights web portal. The following is a retail trade profile for the Bear River region:

Retail Matters in the Bear River Region
The retail trade industry is an important economic driver in Bear River. It employs more than 8,000 people in the region —almost 11 percent of total nonfarm employment. In Box Elder County, retail trade is the third largest industry, behind only manufacturing and health care. In Cache County, it is the fourth largest. Retail sales account for about 51 percent of total taxable sales in the region — very similar to the 52 percent statewide average.

The Rise of Online Retail
Due to consumers making more and more purchases online, the demand for brick-and-mortar retail workers in the region has been softening. Overall, employment in Bear River has been growing at a rate of about 2.4 percent on average since the recovery noticeably began in 2012; but in traditional retail, employment growth has been averaging just 1.4 percent. In the five years prior to the recession (and before online retail really took off), traditional retail employment was clipping along at a much quicker average growth rate of 2.6 percent growth.

Non-store retail, on the other hand, has been booming in the region. With the growth of online retailers, like Malouf Linens and Jensen Online Books in Cache County, employment in non-store retail has grown an average of 16 percent annually since 2012. The share of total employment represented by non-store retail has increased 105 percent over that time. The next highest employment share expansion in retail was in the motor vehicles category, which increased its share by a paltry 19 percent in comparison. Most other retail categories saw a decline in their share of total employment.

Non-store Taxable Sales Are Also Gaining, But Not as Fast as Employment. Why?
Taxable sales in non-store retail have not gained as a share of total taxable sales as quickly as the employment share. This is primarily because sales taxes are collected by the state of the purchaser, and then, only if the seller has a physical presence in that state. This means that when Malouf sells a pillow to someone outside of Utah, there is money coming into Utah (in terms of the jobs that the sale supports) but there is no sales tax coming in to Utah. The only non-store sales taxes captured in Utah are Utah consumers purchasing goods from retailers with a presence in Utah. Since a large share of sales by local online retailers are to customers in other states, it means that sales tax revenue lags compared to employment growth in the industry.

An Aging Retail Workforce
Interestingly, the jobs in retail are not primarily younger workers as one might expect. In fact, about 70 percent of the region’s retail jobs are people 25 and older, and approximately 45 percent are at least 35. There used to be more young workers in the industry. Prior to the recession in 2007, the share of 35 and older retail workers in the Bear River Region was only 38 percent.

During the Great Recession, the share of teenagers working in retail plummeted from 9 percent to 4.5 percent and has remained low ever since. The reduced youth base means there are fewer workers who stay on and age into the older categories.

A Less Educated Retail Workforce
At the same time, the share of retail workers with less than a high school education has increased significantly. This has been primarily at the expense of individuals for whom educational attainment data are not available (i.e., workers under the age of 24 — mostly students). Since 2007, the share of workers with less than a high school education in Utah retail has increased by more than 25 percent.

This does not appear to be an actual increase in less educated workers. Rather, the drop in workers under 24-years-old is causing a share increase for the existing less educated workers. As a result, the retail workforce in Bear River (and in Utah in general) is trending toward an older and less educated demographic.

What is Driving This Trend?
This is likely the result of young people choosing to take jobs in other industries with better pay, as wages in retail have lagged. Or they may be opting to finance their education rather than work while attending school. But some portion of this shift is also being driven by the structural changes taking place in retail due to increasing online sales.

The Occupational Shift
The transition to non-store retail translates to shifting demand for a different set of occupations required by non-store retail operations. Traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores primarily need people to work on the sales floor, such as retail sales workers and cashiers. Those two occupations alone represent about 45 percent of all employees in traditional retail. In non-store retail, on the other hand, the top two occupations are customer service reps and shipping/receiving clerks. Freight and inventory movers, order clerks/fillers, and truck drivers all play a much more prominent role in non-store retail as well.

Generally speaking, these kinds of jobs tend to require more time commitment than the most demanded traditional retail jobs. According to the Conference Board’s Help Wanted Online® product (analyzes online job postings), about 40 percent of job openings for cashiers and retail sales workers (the top jobs for traditional retail) posted in Utah in the second quarter of 2017 were part-time jobs. Only 20 percent of job postings for customer service reps and shipping/receiving clerks (the top jobs for non-store retail) were part-time. Positions that require more time commitment and more fixed schedules are likely to be less attractive to young people — especially students — who may be looking for opportunities that are less time consuming.

The Geographic Shift
In addition, there is a geographic component to this transition. Traditional retailers tend to have many more locations spread out geographically, making them more likely to have that cover a broader footprint within the labor force. Online retailers, however, are generally centralized in large warehouses, distribution centers, and office buildings that runs counter to the disperse spread of traditional brick-and-mortar. As a result, it may be harder for workers — especially younger workers — to get to and from these jobs.

What It All Means
These structural changes are having a profound effect on the retail workforce, and we can reasonably expect the resulting trends to continue for some time. As new technologies and retail processes emerge, there will doubtless be more shifts in this rapidly evolving sector. But for now, in the Bear River region, we can expect fewer traditional brick-and-mortar retail jobs, more non-store retail jobs, and an increasing share of retail employment opportunities that may be challenging for our young population to access.

Check Out the Viz
If you are interested in the details, the data visualization below breaks out the various retail categories and allows you to compare sales (as a share of total taxable sales) and employment (as a share of total nonfarm employment) in each category (by county) over time. The relative changes in taxable sales compared to employment are telling in relation to some of these structural changes, although direct links are difficult to establish as there are many other confounding factors. The tables at the bottom give the actual sales and employment levels, summed-up for whatever you have selected in the county and retail category filters.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Census Bureau Tool Provides Labor-Force Insight for Bear River

Across the United States, jobs are quantified through each state’s unemployment insurance program. Those programs provide the potential for laid-off workers to receive unemployment benefits — the goal being to bridge the gap between workers’ lost jobs and their next jobs. An eligible recipient’s weekly benefit amount is based upon their earnings from recent work. This begs the question, how does Utah’s unemployment insurance program know how much an individual recently earned while working?

That answer is supplied by all businesses that hire workers, as they must report their employees and pay as mandated by the unemployment insurance laws. Companies identify their individual workers and those workers’ monetary earnings for a calendar quarter. As businesses are identified by their industrial activity and geographic location, it is through the unemployment insurance program that aggregate employment counts by industry and location are calculated.

Yet each state’s profiling of individuals is quite minimal in the unemployment insurance program. The U.S. Census Bureau can bring more light to the overall labor force by supplementing said information with gender, age, race/ethnicity and educational attainment (imputed from American Community Survey responses) for Utah’s labor force.

The Census Bureau packages this information through their Local Employment Dynamics program and makes available said data on its website. Here at the Department of Workforce Services, we recently downloaded and packaged Utah-specific data from said website and summarized it in the attached visualization.

Various data “tabs” are available, presenting Utah’s economy from different angles, ranging from industry shares within the economy to the age-group distributions of the labor force, to gender and race distributions. These labor variables can be viewed for the state as a whole, or by each individual county.

Some statewide highlights:

Industry — industrial distribution is quite diverse, which provides strength within the economy. Distributions do fluctuate with time, with manufacturing seeing its share lessen while health care and professional and business services shares have increased.

Age — the bulk of Utah’s labor force is composed of 25- to 44-year-olds. Older worker shares have increased over the past 15 years, yet still remain a non-dominant portion of Utah’s labor force. The youngest segments of the labor force declined noticeably during the Great Recession due to less participation, and that trend remains.

Educational Attainment — turnover rates are understandably highest with workers under the age of 25 as they strive to build their educational foundation and also find their niche in the labor market. A trend does stand out where the more education that a worker attains, the lower the turnover rate businesses experience from said educational classes.

Race/Ethnicity — Whites account for around 80 percent of Utah’s labor force. The Asian community is small but slowly increasing in share, and is also characterized with the lowest turnover rate and the highest new-hire wages.

Gender — males comprise about 55 percent of Utah’s labor force. The female share of 45 percent is higher than the national average. Roughly 35 percent of working females work part-time compared to 15 percent for males. Therefore, female new-hire wages are considerably lower than male new-hire wages. (Note: employer reporting into the unemployment insurance system is not hourly wage rate reporting but instead total calendar quarter wages paid. Therefore, calculations can only be made upon total quarterly wages, and part-time employment weakens this measure).

As for the various counties in the Bear River region, here are some labor highlights:

Cache County – 
People are often surprised to learn that manufacturing is the largest sector in Cache County. With Utah State University in Logan, it is often assumed that education would dominate, but in fact manufacturing composes about 21 percent of employment while education is about 13 percent. Food product manufacturing is the largest sub-industry with nearly 4,000 employees represented by companies like E.A. Miller, Gossner, and Schreiber.

Health care/social services is the only sector that has substantially increased its share of employment over the last 15 years (the bump in manufacturing in 2006 was due to a classification change from professional/business services). Since 2000, the share of employment in health care/social services has almost doubled from around 6 percent to nearly 11 percent – that’s an increase of 2,300 jobs. Growth in this sector has been shared across ambulatory health care as well as hospitals, but the fastest growth has been in residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities.

Box Elder County – 
Manufacturing is an even bigger driver of the economy in Box Elder County than it is in Cache County. Despite an employment share that has declined from 46 percent to 29 percent over the last 15 years, it is still by far the most dominant sector. Over the years, job losses at ATK, and La-Z-Boy among others, have resulted in the declining share of manufacturing jobs; but overall, manufacturing employment has been rebounding since the end of the recession and is back up to nearly 6,000. Autoliv, Thiokol, West Liberty Foods, and Nucor Steel are just few examples of major manufacturing employers in Box Elder County.

Like the rest of Northern Utah, the health care/social services sector in Box Elder has seen notable gains in its employment share over the last 15 years. Individual and family social assistance services in particular have grown quickly — more than 100 new jobs just in the last four years.

Rich County – 
Not surprisingly, leisure/hospitality services is the dominant sector in Rich County with about 26 percent of employment, which has remained relatively consistent across the last 15 years. In that same time, the education sector has declined from around 20 percent to around 14 percent. In fact, the actual level of employment in education (which is primarily public schools in Rich County) has fallen from about 120 in 2000 to about 100 in 2015. Meanwhile, public administration has gained about 20 jobs over the same period, so its share has increased to nearly 10 percent.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Better, Faster, Smarter... Check out our new website design!

Go to: JOBS.UTAH.GOV/WI to check it out

Information is the treasure of the current age. The instant access to information since the advent of the Internet has transformed societies in ways that thousands of years prior had not. Information can lead to knowledge, and — with increased knowledge — better efficiencies and way of life. If information is vital, then the presentation of information has also risen to a prominent level. With this, the Utah Department of Workforce Services has made some organizational improvements to its economic webpages. Various economic data categories are not mutually exclusive, but we made an effort to compartmentalize economic data for a better organizational display and navigation. We also added a new feature area that taps into various national data elements and measurements from the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), the database of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. FRED’s added value is national — and Utah — economic indicators. More on FRED’s contribution below.

Depending on the subject, economic data can be categorized as either broad or specific. For example, the demographic makeup of an area and how that impacts an economic structure is a broad-subject approach. Conversely, a current monthly snapshot of the Utah economy, its job growth and unemployment rate is a more specific observation. Our economic webpage has four “portals” through which to “categorize” and search for information. One portal is broad, while the other three are more specific in nature.

Topic Portals

The monthly employment profile just mentioned is a specific topic and gets its own “portal,” entitled Employment Update. Here, the most current Utah economic performance can be explored and summarized. The information found here is what often gets cited in the local news media in reference to the current Utah job performance and unemployment rate.

The second specific “portal” is labeled Local Insights. This is a quarterly profile of the Utah economy down to a county level. Each county is summarized with its own economic performance, including job growth, unemployment rate, housing starts, taxable sales and other profile variables. The common theme here is a county-specific approach.

The third specific “portal” is Reports and Analysis. Workforce Services’ economic forte is the labor market. Things over and above the everyday reporting on the labor market are presented here. Sometimes we do special economic studies, other times we will report on specific economic groups within the labor force, like women or veterans. Anything we do that is not an often repeated or ongoing report are grouped here.

The final “portal,” and possibly the one that will be most used, is labeled Economic Data. The core of our data collection and analysis is concentrated here. Employment data, occupational data, wage information and demographic profiles are just some of the major economic themes found in this area.

FRED's on site

As mentioned earlier, we have added an economic indicator area tapping into FRED, which is a massive compilation of economic data from various sources — primarily government statistical agencies, but also some nongovernmental organizations. Workforce Services economists have gone through the list and selected a handful of the most useful data series for gauging the performance of Utah’s macro economy and gaining insights into expected trends. Utah functions within the national economy, so the national economic indicators profiled here are intended to also be guiding influences on the Utah economy. These indicators include composite indexes; a recession probability indicator; leading indicators, such as construction permits and the yield curve; coincident indicators, such as real GDP and employment; and price indicators, such as the consumer price index, regional housing prices, and oil and gas prices. Each chart has a detailed description of what the data represent and how they may be useful.

Keeping relevant with the fast-changing pace of the Internet and data presentation is our goal at Workforce Services. We hope these changes help to better present our broad package of economic data offerings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Show Me the Economy - Occupational Projections for Cache County, Utah

The biennial update to Utah's occupational projections have been released and can be found here:  But first. check out these highlights:

Cache County Highlights

Matt Schroeder, Regional Economist
The projected occupational growth rate in Cache County is slightly below the rest of the state on average at 2.3 percent annually through 2024. Utah statewide projected growth is 2.7 percent. The 2,530 projected annual openings in Cache County from 2014 to 2024 represent about 4 percent of all projected openings in the state.

The occupations with the highest growth expectations are, on average, those that require the most education. Jobs that typically require a doctoral or professional degree are projected to grow 2.7 percent annually through 2024. Growth in openings for physicians, physical therapists and psychologists are driving this trend.

Expectations for healthcare practitioners and healthcare support occupations in Cache County are worth highlighting. The healthcare industry is supplying large numbers of annual openings and is expected to grow at more than 3 percent every year over the next eight years. Registered nurses have the strongest demand outlook among healthcare jobs, with expected growth of 3.7 percent or about 40 openings a year, and they earn median wages of nearly $58K per year. Nursing, medical and dental assistants are also expected to be in demand with about 60 openings per year combined. These jobs offer median wages between $22K and $28K per year, but require less education.

After registered nurses, perhaps the most noteworthy occupations in terms of expected demand and wages are applications software developers, mechanical engineers and accountants/auditors. Jobs such as these in the areas of business/finance, engineering and information technology, tend to offer high wages for the level of education required and consistently exhibit a strong growth outlook. Application software engineers are projected to grow by about 3.2 percent or 20 openings per year in Cache County. They typically require a bachelor’s degree and earn median wages of $69K per year. Similarly, accountants and auditors are projected to grow by about 3.2 percent or 20 openings annually and earn median wages of $55K per year.

There are many other occupations in the region that are projected to offer excellent opportunities as well — electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, engineering techs, cement masons and concrete finishers, environmental science techs, and management analysts just to name a few. You can learn more about these occupations and others through the Utah Occupational Explorer where you can explore and compare occupations of interest in detail by region, wage level, typical education required, projected growth, and demand. Before digging into the details though, take a look at the interactive data visualization above to see the big picture of the occupational outlook for Cache County.

About Utah's Occupational Projections
Mark Knold, Supervising Economist

“The government knows everything about everyone.”

Fortunately, that statement is not true. Yet society still looks to the government to provide answers to comprehensive and complex questions that have their foundation within individual decisions and activities. One subject frequently directed toward the government is individual-level information about the economy — particularly, what occupations are in demand, what occupations pay well and have lucrative outlooks, and ultimately, what occupation(s) should I build my career upon?

It takes the accumulation of a wide array of individual information to answer these questions. Employers provide the foundation information about the occupations they employ. Jobs are held by individuals, but employers provide the profile information about the job itself, not any particular individual.

Since society desires to profile such a broad spectrum of the economy — occupational profiles and the occupational distribution within the economy — only government is in the unique position to collect, analyze and provide answers for said desire. Yet, no government program or regulatory agency mandates any comprehensive occupational reporting from individuals or businesses. Therefore, government attempts to fill the void with an ongoing, robust and voluntary survey of employers — a survey where employers are asked to provide details about their various occupations, including descriptions, quantities, wages/salaries and location. Through this survey emerges an occupational portrait of an economy.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) structures and funds the survey, yet the individual states conduct the survey. Under BLS administration, all states use the same methodology; therefore, occupational profiles are comparable across states.

Through this survey, analysts discover how industries are populated with various occupations. Accountant is an occupation, yet accountants can be found across many different industries. Other occupations may be more exclusive to certain industries; for example, doctors are largely found only in the healthcare industry. One of the survey’s products is that industries can be profiled with their general mix of occupations. This is called an industry’s occupational staffing pattern.

This brings us back to the original questions: what occupations are in demand, what occupations pay well and have lucrative outlooks, and ultimately, what occupation(s) should I build my career upon?

The foundation is to make informed forecasts about how industries will expand/contract over the next 10 years. By applying existing occupational staffing patterns to each industry’s projected change, a trained economic analyst can then make an extrapolation about how occupations will correspondingly increase/decrease. Knowledgeable analyst judgment further refines the occupational expectations, such as knowing an occupation will grow faster than in the past, with the result being a set of occupational projections that accumulate to profile a state or regional economy.

A new set of occupational projections are done every two years to keep the information fresh even though economies do not change dramatically in short order. Because of slow change, updated occupational projects generally continue the overall message of preceding occupational projections. But economies do modify with time, and therefore, subtle changes will arise with each new set of occupational projections.

Utah’s most recent occupational projections are found here: These projections look forward to the year 2024.

The occupational profile is structured from the general to the detailed, mimicking the structure of a family tree. First, broad occupational categories are defined, such as management or healthcare occupations; then, subcategories are defined; and finally, individual occupations are defined. Individual occupations are the heart of the occupational projections. But overall patterns and characteristics do emerge when observing the broader categories.

While a Utah statewide profile leads the way, Utah’s local economies are not homogenous; therefore, nine Utah subregions are also profiled. Due to confidentiality restraints and statistical reliability, the amount of occupations available will diminish the smaller a subregion; but, occupations comprising the backbone of a regional economy will be available.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Infrastructure Labor Market - Cache County

Matt Schroeder, Regional Economist

The labor force is made up of people. People vary in every conceivable way. One person is artistic while another can only draw stick people. One person might be able to disassemble and reassemble a car engine while another might not know what an alternator is. We are different. We have different aptitudes and abilities.

Parallel to this variability, jobs are different. High levels of education do make it possible to work in high-skill occupations that return high incomes. But not everyone is cut out for higher education or has the means to obtain higher education. Therefore, they might end up in “lesser” or “unimportant” jobs.

But is that accurate? Are their job options inferior and unimportant? A recent Brookings Institution report brings to light a segment of the economy that is highly important yet is dependent upon the labor force that may not be built for, have the economic means, or desire to attain a college degree or higher.

Brookings identifies a niche they call the infrastructure economy. As Brookings notes, “Infrastructure helps facilitate the exchange of information, drive production, and deliver resources, spanning multiple sectors of the economy and serving as a foundation to long-term growth.” It goes further to note that “Infrastructure jobs depend on a steady stream of talent to construct, operate, design, and govern the country’s major physical assets.” (article continues below)

**Filter the viz below to see information on the infrastructure jobs in your area**

Brookings documents why these infrastructure jobs can appeal to the individual. “Infrastructure occupations also boast competitive wages with relatively low barriers to entry, frequently paying up to 30 percent more to workers with a high school diploma or less compared to those in all other occupations. Plumbers, truck mechanics, and power line installers are among the numerous infrastructure occupations that fall into this category, which tend to emphasize on-the-job training rather than higher levels of formal education.”

Brookings identified 95 occupations that support the infrastructure foundation. Their work was well founded and designed. This intrigued us to develop a profile of said infrastructure configuration for the Utah economy. We could not replicate the Brookings work in terms of finalizing upon infrastructure industries, but we could place our focus instead upon all infrastructure occupations.

Infrastructure occupations do not have to be found in only infrastructure industries. A helicopter pilot, an infrastructure occupation, may fly a medical helicopter for a hospital, even though said hospital is not categorized as an infrastructure industry.

What is important is that there are occupations that Brookings has identified as key occupations that help to keep the economy operating, growing, designed, and governed. And a practical appeal is that many of these jobs offer low barriers to entry while supplying competitive wages.

Across the nation, these occupations number 11.9 million, or 8.8 percent of all occupational employment. In Utah, these jobs number around 121,400, also 8.8 percent of all occupational employment. Again, the appeal of these jobs is not just that they fundamentally support so many other jobs and industries in the economy, but that these jobs don’t require a high level of education or formalized training for entry. Oftentimes these occupations emphasize only on-the-job training. Yet, these jobs pay on average 22 percent higher in Utah than other occupations that are willing to accept only a high school diploma or less.

Utah does have its unique structuring across its different geographic regions, and this will include the possibility of a different profile of the Infrastructure economy in each local region. The following is an Infrastructure profile for Cache County.

Cache County 

Infrastructure occupations make up about 6.8 percent of total employment in Cache County, less than the state and national averages. Cache’s percentage is lower due to the significant amount of education jobs in the local economy (K-12 and non-agricultural aspect of Utah State University) that are not categorized in the infrastructure economy.

Cache County’s vibrant manufacturing industry provides high levels of infrastructure occupations such as freight movers, truck drivers, and package handlers. Strong regional growth in both residential and nonresidential construction has also contributed a significant number of infrastructure jobs to the area. Plumbers and electricians alike are in high demand in this area as a result.

Utah State University Extensions and the U.S. Forest Service are also major contributors of infrastructure jobs. Understanding and overseeing the use of our natural resources is an important part of infrastructure management. In Cache County, conservation scientists are employed at a concentration of 7 times and forestry/conservation technicians are employed at a concentration of 4.5 times that of the U.S. average respectively.

These infrastructure jobs compose the backbone of the local economy and provide the structure and support upon which the rest of the community can thrive and grow. As such, it’s appropriate that these individuals tend to be paid better wages. Compared to other individuals with similar levels of education, infrastructure workers in Cache County make about 23 percent more on average ($18.02 per hour versus $13.04 per hour).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Your area’s labor market information is “OnTheMap”

The Census Bureau’s online mapping tool provides a wealth of location-specific labor market information

“If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.” Ashleigh Brilliant

This isn’t your same old blog post about data. Instead of analyzing and sharing data, this post covers how to access an extremely useful “big data” labor market information tool. What is this tool? The U.S. Census Bureau’s OnTheMap web-based mapping and reporting application.

What’s so great about OnTheMap? Typically, we report labor market information at the state and county level. Local-level data is harder to come by. Along with the ability to provide labor market profiles of small and large nonstandard areas, OnTheMap graphically demonstrates where people work and where workers live. Users can define their own geographies and obtain data and maps at the census-block level of detail. This flexibility can quickly provide information for emergency and transportation planning, site location and economic development. 
  • Do you want to understand commuting patterns for a particular area? OnTheMap can generate maps of outflow and inflow. 
  • Do you want to know the basic characteristics of workers in your town? OnTheMap has that information. 
  • Do you want to identify the employment characteristics along a specific stretch of highway? OnTheMap can deliver that data. 
  • Do you want to discern how many workers live within a 50-mile radius of a particular site? OnTheMap delivers.
Where does this data come from? OnTheMap combines federal and state administrative data on workers and employees with Census Bureau census and survey data. Don’t worry. Using state-of-the-art methods, the Census Bureau is committed to protecting the confidentiality of business and personal information. 

Where People Work

Let’s run through a few examples of how OnTheMap outputs can help you understand your local economy. Suppose the Logan City Council wants to know where the residents of their town work. OnTheMap indicates more than half of the city’s working residents are employed in cities other than Logan.   

Next, the mayor wants to know how many workers travel into Logan for employment. OnTheMap suggests that far more workers commute in than out of Logan. In-commuters are most likely to drive from Smithfield.

Labor Market Characteristics

Now, these local government officials have decided they would like to know the characteristics of those folks that work or live in Logan. OnTheMap can provide age-group, earnings, industry, race/ethnicity, gender and educational attainment information. For example, OnTheMap shows the following characteristics for working residents of Logan:
  • 40 percent are 29 years or younger
  • One-fourth make more than $3,333 a month
  • 21 percent work in manufacturing
  • 1,982 are Latino
  • 18 percent have at least a Bachelor’s degree
  •  46 percent are female
Getting Specific

A company thinking of locating to Logan is interested in the number (and characteristics) of workers within a standard commuting distance of a particular worksite. Economic development professionals can specify a particular radius and obtain a report. Other shapes (donut and plume) are also available. In addition, users can draw their own polygons in OnTheMap. To determine how many workers may be inconvenienced by a road construction project, just draw a line along the length of the project and “buffer” the selection. 


You begin to see what a valuable informational tool OnTheMap can be for planning and economic development purposes. 

OnTheMap is available here: