Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Peek into the Economic Crystal Ball

Utah Releases New Short-Term Occupational Projections

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

"I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place." Winston Churchill

In contrast to Winston Churchill, economists at the Utah Department of Workforce Services don’t have the luxury of projecting occupational trends after the fact. Our latest foray into the world of the unknown has produced the 2017 to 2019 occupational projections for Utah. You can find the full set of projections here.

New methodology

If you were to compare the number of total projected openings from our previous set of short-term projections (2016-2018) to the current 2017-2019 set, you might be perplexed. Why? In the new set, annual openings increase roughly 3.5 times compared to the previous projections. Do we really expect Utah’s economy to perform so much better in the next two years? Well, not so much. The economy is still expected to be strong, although the number of projected openings due to growth is actually expected to contract slightly.

What’s changed? Utah has adopted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) new methodology for estimating one of the components of projected occupational openings — replacement openings. These replacement openings occur as workers transfer to another occupation or exit the local labor market altogether. Research and anecdotal evidence suggests this new estimation methodology better reflects actual occupational changes made by workers in the labor market. This change also results in much higher numbers of overall projected openings. For a complete discussion of this new methodology, check out our previous blog post here.

Here are some highlights from our 2017 to 2019 occupational projections:

• Utah’s employment is expected to grow at an annual rate of 2.7 percent between 2015 and 2017, resulting in 41,400 openings for new jobs each year.

• Replacement needs created by workers changing occupations or leaving the labor market will result in more than 170,000 additional openings, for a total of 211,400 openings per year.

• Roughly 80 percent of openings are expected to be the result of occupational transfers and exits, leaving only 20 percent of openings due to growth.

• Replacement openings resulting from occupational transfers will result in a higher share of openings than occupational exits.

• All major occupational groups are expected to expand during the next two years. • Construction, personal care and architecture/engineering occupations are expected to experience the most rapid expansion.

• Construction employment is expected to continue improving beyond the heavy losses experienced during the Great Recession.

• Office/administrative support, sales and food preparation/serving occupations are projected to produce the highest number of openings. These are large occupational groups which also tend to show high transfer and exit rates.

• Individual occupations with the highest projected openings can typically be found in office/administrative support, sales and food preparation/serving groups. These occupations characteristically include large numbers of current workers, as well.

• Occupations typically requiring a high school education or less should produce the highest number of openings. • Computer and mathematical occupations show one of the highest rates of transfer openings.

• Education/training/library occupations show one of the lowest rates of transfer openings.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Say “Hello” to Our New Occupational Projections Methodology

Projected Replacement Openings increase Dramatically

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

“The most reliable way to forecast the future is to try to understand the present.” John Naisbitt

The Utah Department of Workforce Services regularly releases industry and occupational projections to assist Utahns making career, education and business-planning decisions. We’ve marginally tweaked the projections methodology over the decades; but, “the time’s they are a-changin.” With the release of our new short-term projections in March, you might notice significant upward movement in the number of projected openings. We believe the result improves our occupational projections.

Utah has adopted the new estimation methodology implemented by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its recent 2016-2026 national occupational projections roll-out. What does this mean for Utah’s upcoming occupational projections?

No Change

The methodology behind several components of the projections will remain the same:

  • Base Year Employment 
  • Projected Year Employment
  • Growth Openings (Projected Year Employment less Base Year Employment)

What changed?

One key component will undergo a marked change: replacement (or “separations”) openings. The change in estimating replacement openings between the old and new methodologies will be dramatic.

The graphic below displays the projection components we publish. The difference between an occupation’s baseline employment and projected employment results in openings due to growth. (A negative change results in no growth openings.) Replacement openings arise due to the need replace individuals leaving a particular occupation. These openings are also estimated in the projection process. Note that, in many occupations, replacement openings often far exceed growth openings.

Replacement openings arise because an individual leaves an occupation. For example, a worker may retire, change to a different occupation, get a promotion or leave the labor market. Keep in mind that replacement openings are not synonymous with turnover. If an accountant leaves one job to take a job as an accountant at another company, there is no replacement need for accountants. The new methodology will better estimate replacement (or separation) openings.

Why Change?

The new methodology produces a more thorough estimate of the different job changes workers make throughout their careers. Currently, workers tend to change occupations more frequently during their work life than did their predecessors. However, remember the concept behind the old and new methodologies remains the same; only the methodology itself changes.

What is the New Methodology?

The new methodology reflects two types of occupational separations: workers leaving the labor force and workers who change occupations. The new methodology incorporates longitudinal data from the federal government’s Current Population Survey (the same survey that provides the national unemployment rate). Workers who separate from their occupations have been identified. Then, regression models are run to identify the characteristics of workers more or less likely to either leave the labor force or transfer to a different occupation. Those regression models are then applied to the current labor force and extrapolated to estimate future separations by occupation.

The new methodology has been years in the making and undergone comprehensive research and testing. In addition, projections data users have been engaged to help ensure the data is meaningful and sound. Testing suggests that the new methodology more accurately projects future workforce needs than the previous methodology. Plus, the new figures reflect what stakeholders on the ground have told researchers. For more information about the new methodology, visit:

Methodology Effects are Not Equal

The new methodology will affect some occupations’ projections more dramatically than others. Large changes will be evident for occupations with a tendency toward high turnover. For example, cashiers will show much higher future replacement openings than pharmacists using the new methodology.

It’s worth noting that the methodology is based on national patterns, not Utah data. The Current Population Survey sample size for Utah is not sufficient to obtain Utah-specific relationships. Nevertheless, the new methodology does take a giant step forward in projecting Utah’s future labor market needs.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Utah Grows to the 31st Largest State Economy

Mark Knold, Supervising Economist

Several runners are engaged in a race. They move along, jockeying for position when they all stumble into a ditch. Most runners crash hard; others don’t. One twists an ankle and struggles to return. Another badly bruises a shin and limps due to pain. Yet, another scuffs a knee, gets up quickly and surmounts his fellow runners. Such is the case with the Utah economy and the ditch we called the Great Recession.

This yarn was contrived to illustrate what happened to Utah’s economy from the Great Recession’s onset to now. Based upon employment across 10 years, Utah has grown from the 33rd largest state economy to the 31st. Utah has passed Nevada and Kansas with Iowa not far ahead.

Beginning in 2008, all state economies stumbled in the Great Recession. All lost jobs and endured economic bruises. States have their own economic nuances and exposures. These cause some to bruise more deeply than others. Utah scuffed its economic knee (rather noticeably), but got up quickly and resumed the race at a jolly pace.

Utah advanced past Nevada in 2009, a year in which Utah lost jobs. That means Nevada lost even more jobs. That’s an economic twisted ankle. It wasn’t until 2016 that Utah then moved past Kansas. Kansas resumed adding jobs in 2011, but a bruised shin meant its gains couldn’t keep pace ahead of Utah.

Only one other state, Tennessee, also advanced two positions, having moved from 18th to 16th. Movements can be predicated upon how numerically close state economies are to each other; the closer together the easier to move. But most states are closely bunched and thus had as much opportunity to gain as did Utah and Tennessee.

Starting 2018, Utah is about 110,000 jobs behind Iowa. Given Utah’s internal population growth and other expansionary economic characteristics, a further advancement to 30th position is inevitable. Assuming a Utah employment growth rate of 2.5 percent (this is actually below Utah’s average annual growth rate) and no growth in Iowa (not likely, but one needs to establish a comparative benchmark), it would take Utah three years to pass Iowa. Reality would probably say give it six or seven.

After that, watch out Oklahoma!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Profiling Utahns with Disabilities

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

“Know me for my abilities, not my disability.” ― Robert M. Hensel

In October 2016, the Utah Department of Workforce Services welcomed the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) under its umbrella of public services. USOR has been in the business of assisting Utahns with disabilities for decades. Workers help those with disabilities find meaningful employment, participate in the community and improve daily life. In addition, Workforce Services helps Utah businesses by connecting them with job-ready applicants, offering training and assistance in recruiting, hiring and maintaining workers with disabilities. Businesses can also receive information on disability issues and workplace accommodations.

What information regarding Utahns with disabilities is available? As is often the case, the American Community Survey (ACS) offers a wealth of demographic data for counties. Using the 2011-2015 ACS averages, Workforce Services has prepared a data visualization detailing the demographics of people with disabilities for Utah’s counties. Five-year averages allow the publication and comparison of data for small counties. This post includes an abbreviated version of the visualization; the full version can be found here. As always, directions in the final tab outline how to download the information.

Defining Disability

The ACS (conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau) tackles the difficult task of gathering data on the complex concept of disability with a set of six short questions. ACS seeks to capture six aspects of disability, which can then be used to identify populations with specific disability types.

Hearing — deaf or serious hearing difficulty
Vision — blind or serious vision difficulty
Cognitive — serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Ambulatory — serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs
Self-care — difficulty dressing or bathing • Independent living — difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping due to a physical, mental or emotional condition

Respondents are considered to have a disability if they have difficulty with any of the types listed above. For children under five years old, hearing and vision difficulty are used to determine disability status.

Survey Says…

What does the survey show? In Utah, roughly 270,000 individuals have a serious disability — 9.3 percent of the total population. That’s substantially lower than the United States share of 12.4 percent. This spread in the share of persons with disabilities results primarily from the different age structures of Utah and the nation. Utah remains the youngest state in the country, and older individuals are most likely to experience a disability.

In both Utah (25 percent) and the United States (27 percent), persons with an ambulatory disability make up the highest percentage of those with disabilities. Next in line in both areas are those with a cognitive disability (22 and 20 percent respectively). Nationally, individuals with an independent living disability make up a slightly larger share than in Utah. In addition, individuals with a hearing disability also comprise a significant share of the total population with a disability in the state and nation.

Age Counts

When it comes to experiencing a disability, age counts. Until age 34, only a small percentage of Utahns experience a disability — 5 percent or less. Even up to age 64, only one in 10 manifests a disability. However, nearly one-fourth of seniors 64 to 74 years of age indicate they experience a disability, while half of persons 75 and older report a disability. U.S. figures are relatively similar.

Gender Gap

In the United States, women (12.6 percent) are slightly more likely to report a disability than men (12.2 percent). In Utah, that relationship is reversed. Women (9.2 percent) are slightly less likely to have a serious disability than their male counterparts (9.5 percent).

There’s more…

The following bullets highlight a few other points from the profile.

• Piute County shows the highest share of population with a disability (18 percent). The population of Piute County is also the oldest county in Utah. The lowest share of population with a disability can be found in Summit County.

• Not surprisingly, in general, counties with older populations also have higher share of people reporting disabilities.

• While individuals aged 75-plus are the most likely to show a disability, persons between the ages of 35 to 64 years, make up a larger share of the population of individuals with disabilities (38 percent). Those 75 and older comprise 22 percent. Of course, the 35-to-64 age population also comprises the largest portion of the total population (33 percent).

• In Kane County, 58 percent of men 65 and older report a serious disability — the highest in the state. On the female side, San Juan County shows the highest share of female population over 65 years with a disability (52 percent).

• In Utah, women make up a smaller or commensurate share of persons with a disability than men until 75 years of age. Of course, due to longer life spans, females also make up a larger share of the 75-plus population.

• In Utah, San Juan County shows the highest population share of women with a disability (17 percent), while Kane County displays the highest share of men with a disability (20 percent). Summit, Utah, Morgan and Wasatch counties consistently show low shares of the population with disabilities, regardless of gender.

• More than half of individuals with a disability between the ages of 18 and 64 are not in the labor force. This group comprises 20 percent of all similarly-aged individuals that are not in the labor force.

• In contrast, people with disabilities make up only 5 percent of those employed. Those with a disability are also much more likely to be unemployed (12 percent of total unemployed).

• Workers with a disability are even less likely to work full-time, year-round. They comprise just 4 percent of this category.

• Almost equal numbers of persons with a disability work year-round, full-time and less than year-round, full-time.

• In Box Elder County, workers with a disability appear to make up a disproportionate share of the unemployed — 27 percent. On the other hand, workers with a disability comprise 11 percent of the employed in San Juan County, far higher than the statewide average of 5.0 percent.

• In Utah, the median wage of workers with a disability measures only 72 percent of those without a disability. Male workers with a disability make only 70 percent of their peer’s wage. Workers with a disability are less likely to work year-round, full-time, but this would account for only a small share of the wage gap.

• Workers with a disability experience a smaller-than-average wage gap in Kane, Juab, Tooele, Millard and Garfield counties. Here, the median wage of workers with a disability measures 85 percent or higher of the wage of comparable workers without a disability.

• Individuals with a disability are far less likely to have poverty-level incomes if they work. Only 10 percent of the employed with a disability are below the poverty line compared to 29 percent of those who are not in the labor force.

• Utah veterans are far more likely to report a disability than nonveterans. Nearly 30 percent of veterans report a disability compared to 11 percent of nonveterans. Utah is home to more than 12,000 younger veterans under the age of 64 with a disability, roughly 18 percent of veterans in this age group.

• The non-Hispanic/Latino white population, a majority of Utahns, is noticeably more likely to report a disability (10 percent), than the Hispanic/Latino population (6 percent).