ST. GEORGE – What is the economic forecast for southern Utah in 2022? According to some employment officials and state and local enterprises, this is as good as possible under the circumstances.
Mark Knold, chief economist for Utah’s Department of Workforce Services, said the only thing holding back growth would be a labor shortage.
“You’re going to have above average demand for business and commerce, but you’re probably going to have below average growth because of the 2% unemployment rate,” Knold said.
The shutdown resulting from the pandemic does not appear to have caused lasting damage to Utah’s economy, particularly in Washington and Iron Counties. The unemployment rate in Washington County was 4.7% in October 2020. This figure fell to 2% in October 2021. The story was similar in Iron County, with unemployment falling from 4.1% in October 2020 to 2% in October 2021.
Before the pandemic, Utah was at full employment for at least two years, with a work participation rate of 68.5%, which is the estimated population maximum for Utah. The labor force participation rate is a measure that reflects anyone aged 16 and over who can work, whether they are working or looking for a job. At the height of the pandemic, turnout fell to 67% in Utah.
Knold said the current unemployment rate is a bit misleading because many people who had jobs before the pandemic have decided not to return to work or have stopped looking altogether during the pandemic. Another factor is the decrease in the number of people with a second job.
“We find that in the long run, about 6% of workers in Utah have second jobs,” Knold said. “This fell to 4.5% during the pandemic and has not yet recovered to 6%.”
Typically, about 13,000 Utah residents have second jobs. At present, there are still around 5,000 people who have not taken up a second job.
The bottom line is that the economy is set for strong economic growth in southern Utah, but that growth will be tempered by a shortage in the job market. All of this is great news for workers looking to make a little extra money or quit an unsatisfying job, Knold said.
“People always want to improve the skill set, the quality of the pay scale,” he said. “It’s probably the best environment to do it. “
Harnessing the economy in Iron County
2021 ends in style in Iron County. Danny Stewart, director of development for Cedar City and Iron County, said all economic indicators were up from the previous year.
“We’ve been busy in all areas: growth, construction and sales,” said Stewart. “Our biggest challenge is finding the workers to meet the demand. “
Construction in Iron County was already exploding before the pandemic. Despite the shutdown last year, this growth continues.
“At the end of August 2021, we were up 37% from 2020 for issuance of residential building permits,” said Stewart.
Part of the building frenzy can be attributed to new people migrating to Iron County. Additionally, Stewart said many people who grew up in the area choose to stay there, which is a trend reversal.
“We traditionally export most of our educated young people,” said Stewart. “They are high school or college graduates and are moving to find opportunities elsewhere. “
2022 is set to be an economically strong year for Iron County, limited only by an anticipated shortage of people to cover all the jobs created. Stewart says this is great news for those looking for a job.
“There are a lot of opportunities at all levels of employment here,” said Stewart. “It’s definitely a market for job seekers right now. “
Women in business
Women in southern Utah quickly pivoted during the pandemic shutdown. Debbie Drake, director of the southern office of the Women’s Business Center in Utah, said women who own small businesses have really risen to the challenge during the pandemic.
“They stepped up their efforts, worked even harder, thought outside the box and worked together to make things happen,” Drake said.
Home-based businesses like bakeries, online educational programs and social media services have increased during the shutdown. These areas are expected to continue to grow in 2022. Drake said she expects most businesses to use a virtual hybrid model to stay flexible in these uncertain times.
“The advantage of virtual business is that you can sell to anyone,” she said.
Women who want to start a new business can receive free help and advice from the Southern Utah Women’s Business Center office. Drake said his organization offers resources, advice and free training for start-ups.
“One of the things we offer is a statewide directory of women-owned businesses,” she said. “It will be linked to city and county websites so people can search for women-owned businesses in their area.”
Drake said her office is also embarking on a photo tour of women-owned businesses. A photographer takes photos in each of the 14 counties served by the southern office of the Women’s Business Center in Utah. The photos will be featured in various marketing publications.
Drake predicts a positive year for businesswomen in southern Utah. With interest rates low and demand for goods and services, positive things are on the horizon for women looking to start a new business or increase demand for their existing services.
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