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.