Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Downtown Labor Pull

Mark Knold, Supervising Economist

Major metropolitan areas center on a large city and its downtown core. In Utah, that is Salt Lake City. A skyline of office buildings are fed by a transportation artery designed to funnel labor to this economic center. Downtowns can be known for being more of a work area than a residential area, and so workday populations can swell in a downtown, then ebb as the evening unfolds.

A U.S. Census Bureau product entitled Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) has a great mapping tool that allows users to outline a geographic area and then see how many workers work in that area and where they commute from. Let’s look at the Salt Lake City downtown core.

The downtown will be defined as extending from I-15 eastward along North Temple to 700 East, then south to 800 South and west back to I-15. This rectangle roughly follows census block groups, which is the lowest foundation the LEHD program will geographically measure. Within this zone, roughly 58,100 jobs exist  (as of 2011, so 2015 totals would be higher). Of that total, 11,350, or 20 percent, live in Salt Lake City itself. The remaining 80 percent come in from surrounding cities and counties.

The following is a list of cities and their supply into the 58,100 jobs. It is a diverse list.

As expected, workers approach the downtown from all directions. It’s interesting to see that a city as far away as Spanish Fork supplies as many workers to the downtown as does Woods Cross, a city much closer. The work appeal and the quality of jobs available to come into the downtown area have a far reach. Even a city with its own downtown core, such as Ogden, supplies close to 900 workers for downtown Salt Lake City.

There is another major employment area to the east of the downtown core — the University of Utah (U of U) and its surroundings. That area accounts for another 32,000 jobs. Its commuting pattern for employment looks like this:

Naturally the Salt Lake valley supplies the most workers into the downtown and U of U areas, as Salt Lake County
is the heart of Utah’s population center. The downtown environs heavily rely upon the surrounding communities to supply its labor.

This is the case with all of Salt Lake City, not just the downtown and U of U areas. Using 2001 data, Salt Lake City included 213,100 jobs, but the labor force of Salt Lake City is only 102,700. So there is nearly a doubling every work day of labor coming into and out of Salt Lake City, its downtown and its U of U heights.

 [1] The downtown employment levels are actually higher but not quantifiable, as the LDS Church and its downtown headquarters are not required by law to report employment levels into the state’s unemployment insurance ledger.

Friday, April 10, 2015

FIRST Robotics: Getting Our Future Workforce Interested in STEM

By: Matt Schroeder

On March 13, 2015, West Valley City’s Maverik Center was filled with all the energy, excitement and fanfare you would expect at a major sporting event — blaring music, cheering and dancing fans. But instead of athletes and a ball, there were robots and pool noodles. This was the sixth annual FIRST Robotics competition for Utah and the surrounding region, where 53 teams of high school students from 11 states faced off in hopes of qualifying for a slot at the national championships in St. Louis.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

It’s National Women’s History Month

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

Click to Enlarge
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Harvard historian who grew up next door in Idaho, once wrote: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” While I can’t speak to their deportment, Utah’s past is filled with history-making women. Martha Hughes Cannon was a noted physician and the first female state senator in the United States. Sarah Young, granddaughter to Brigham Young, was Utah’s first female voter. Juanita Brooks, a Utah historian, wrote with integrity about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Mayor Mary Chamberlain headed the United States’ first all-female city council in Kanab. Florence Ellinwood Allen was the first woman appointed to a federal appellate court. Utah's first congresswoman, Reva Beck Bosone, also had a distinguished judicial career. This list just scratches the surface of the many women who have contributed to Utah’s history, published and unpublished.

What do we know about women in Utah today? The figures below, taken primarily from the American Community Survey show data of Utah women, whose present will be the history of tomorrow.


  • Roughly 1.4 million females live in Utah (2013). 
  • Unlike previous decades, Utah males currently out-number Utah females (49.7 percent of the population). 
  • At 85 years old and over, Utah women outnumber Utah men by 1.5 to one. 
  • In Utah, the median age of women is 30.7 years compared to 29.6 for men. 
  • Approximately 57 percent of Utah females over age 15 are married, 27 percent have never married, 6 percent are widowed and 10 percent are divorced. 
  •  There are more than 8,500 female veterans in Utah, 6.5 percent of all Utah veterans. 


  • In 2013, more than 52,000 women gave birth. 
  • Roughly 17 percent of those females were unmarried. 
  • More than 50 percent of women who gave birth were in the labor force. 
  • Almost 357,000 Utah mothers live with a child under 18 years of age. 
  • More than 61 percent of Utah mothers are in the labor force. 


  • Roughly 620,000 Utah women are part of the labor force. 
  • In 1900, only 13 percent of Utah’s women worked outside the home. Today, almost 59 percent of Utah females work for pay (compared to 76 percent of men). 
  • Utah women make up 44 percent of the labor force. Utah women’s labor force participation of 59 percent measures higher than the U.S. average of 58 percent. 
  • Utah women between the ages of 35 to 44 are far less likely to work than U.S. women of the same age. 
  • Women in the older and younger groups are more likely to be labor force participants than females nationwide. 
  • Roughly 99 percent of Utah preschool and kindergarten teachers are females, while only 1 percent of carpenters are women (2006-2010). 
  • Utah women make up roughly 84 percent of lower-skilled healthcare support occupations but only 2 percent of construction and mining occupations (2006-2010). 


  • In 2013, 128,000 Utah women were enrolled in college, professional or graduate schools (4,000 more than Utah men). 
  • In Utah, 29 percent of women had achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 34 percent of Utah men. 
  • Utah has the largest gender college-education gap in the U.S. 

Earnings and Poverty

  • The median earnings for Utah women who worked year-round, full-time measured $35,252 — only 70 percent of the comparable male earnings. 
  • Differences in education, hours worked, occupational tenure and other demographics account for the vast majority of the male/female wage gap. 
  • Utah shows the fourth-largest female-to-male wage ratio in the United States. 
  • The poverty rate for Utah’s female-headed households with children equaled 37 percent compared to only 9 percent for married couple families with children.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Is There Slack in the Utah Labor Market?

By Jim Robson, Senior Economist

Slack in the labor market includes more than the oft-cited unemployment rate. A more comprehensive measure of labor market slack is the “labor underutilization rate,” which is composed of three elements. First, the jobless rate — persons who are unemployed and activity seeking work in the last month. Second, the “marginally attached” to the labor force — persons who want to work and have looked for a job during the last year, but did not seek employment during the previous four weeks. Finally, the “involuntary part-time” — persons who are working part-time, but want a full-time job.

Figure 1 shows the labor underutilization rate for Utah and the U.S. on an annual basis for the last 14 years. The lowest rates for Utah were from 2006 to 2008, ranging from 5.0 percent to 6.2 percent. This occurred during the housing bubble prior to the Great Recession. In 2010, as a result of the recession, Utah’s labor underutilization rate averaged a high of 15.1 percent. This rate has fallen during the economic recovery each year, coming down to 8.2 percent in 2014.

In Figure 2, Utah’s labor underutilization is broken down into its three component parts: unemployment, marginally attached and involuntary part-time. The percentage rates seen for Utah from 2006 through 2008 are instructive, indicating how low these various measures can go in a tight labor market. None of these measures can ever actually fall to zero. In economic theory there is a “natural rate of unemployment,” which is the lowest jobless rate consistent with balanced growth, plenty of job opportunities and low inflation. No one in the economics profession knows exactly what level this natural rate is for a given labor market.

The Utah labor underutilization rate in 2007 of 5 percent was likely below the so-called natural rates for unemployment, marginally attached and involuntary part-time with too much tightness in the labor market. These rates are so low that they cannot be sustained in a balanced Utah economy and labor market given our demographic characteristics and economic structure.

I do believe that Utah’s recent history does support the notion that our labor underutilization rate can continue to move down toward around six percent as evidenced by the 2006 rate of 5.8 percent and the 2008 rate of 6.2 percent. If this economic expansion continues in 2015 and 2016, as now expected, an additional improvement and reduction of slack in the Utah labor market of around 2 percent in the underutilization rate is possible.